Take refuge: Kevin Cooley


by Alessandro Trabucco

Light has always been playing a fundamental role throughout the photographic production of Kevin Cooley: it is the main character, the focusing factor that catches the eye and guides it across the image. In every picture, light becomes what Roland Barthes considered to be the “punctum” of a photograph, denoting the wounding, personally touching detail which attracts the spectator’s interest and establishes a direct and exclusive relationship with the object or person within it.

In the work of the American artist this detail becomes a crucial feature as it brings about a creative path which doesn’t end up simply showing the artist’s photographs: thanks to the art installation and the video the spectators are offered new points of view and in-depth analysis on linguistics and other artistic expressions.

In the series of photographs entitled Take refuge, Kevin Cooley pictures almost always snow-covered landscapes in a crepuscular light. As a result, natural light creates a spellbinding and evocative atmosphere and at the same time it emphasizes the brilliance of the mysterious light (presumably an artificial one, even though Cooley is very vague about it) which originates from a specific point of the picture.

It is an intense, dazzling light always springing from an undetectable source, as it is hidden inside a closed place or in the hands of baffling figures, who are always pictured from behind or from great distances, representing modern Prometheus, bearers of a primordial fire, a pure dynamic force.

One of the features of the places photographed by Kevin Cooley is exactly their being isolated, or at least seemingly uninhabited. Above all, there is a strong feeling of wait and suspension, as if what is happening at that precise moment contains a time expansion in which the light becomes a constant and inexhaustible source of energy.

The shelter photographed by Kevin Cooley could be interpreted as the environment from where one can tune into the surrounding world, being a part of it but, at the same time, closing oneself off from it. It’s like a mother’s womb whose amniotic fluid, which nourishes, protects and repairs, is represented by a light shining inside but also heating eternity with its inexhaustible vital heat resources.



Imagine to turn off the light, whose origin and nature are unknown to us: the landscape would be probably blacked out as well, as if we were in a dark room, suddenly going blind.
In Kevin Cooley’s works, light is what really reveals the surrounding reality, shaping it by means of its own irradiation, so that, as soon as it stops shining, everything disappears into obscurity and oblivion. In the single urban centre photographed by the artist for the collection Take refuge, the light of the small shelter in the snow is the only visual sign of an on-going activity, the only evidence of life in an environment dominated by a total lack of any other form of existence.

Kevin Cooley, Take refuge

1 – Santiam Pass Refuge, 2010
2 – Devoe Street Refuge, 2011
3 – Clearwater Lookout, 2010
4 – Magdalenefjorden, 2011
5 – Matador Cave, 2011
6 – Rogue River Refuge, 2010
7 – Raudfjorden Fire, 2011
8 – Front Range Refuge, 2011
9 – Sunshine Canyon, 2010

Large format long exposure photographs
Courtesy of the artist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *