COMMENSALISM | RENATE ALLER
Written by Max Wiener
October 11, 2023
Our bodies interact with the natural world differently. Some of us glide through landscapes with the graceful delicateness of a gazelle. Others, on the other hand, stomp around and fully take for granted the serenity that exists in our world. Perhaps it is our journey as human beings to learn how to interact with our world in a way that benefits not just us, but Mother Nature as an entity.
If anyone can inspire us to do this, it’s Renate Aller, and her series Commensalism is all the convincing we need to become more in touch with the natural world. Staged elegantly at Santa Fe’s Chiaroscuro Gallery, the series marks a fantastic artistic and creative leap for Aller, showing off her newfound presence in the world of landscape photography. It may be a new love, but her mastery of the lens is apparent throughout, and in tandem with her delicate stills of the human body, Commensalism proves to be one of the most interesting photography exhibitions in the current scene. The exhibition is on view through October 28th.
It may appear slightly strange at first to have such opposing images placed next to each other, but with a more in-depth view we see a clear theme established by Aller. Both images, staggeringly different, are profoundly intimate, almost designed for us to look at alone. Her landscape shots in particular are massive and show large swaths of land spanning hundreds of acres. However, there is no human presence in them; we discover this world ourselves. We pioneer the rock structures and desertscapes with our own imaginations, creating our own pseudo-worlds within them and making our own artistic assumptions. A zoom out might reveal its true location, but Aller knows that would take away from its breadth and power. She invites us to use our minds in ways we didn’t even know we could.
The people perched next to the landscapes all make the walls of Chiaroscuro feel very much more intimate, like we are seeing something meant for our eyes only. Aller stages them in very sensual positions, with their hands and limbs delicately placed before her lens. This is the human representation of her landscapes coming into full form. The bends of the hands are the cracks in the rocks and the grooves in the mountains. Legs are valleys, fingers are cliffs. She reminds us that we ourselves are mere sprouts out of the Earth’s soil, individually contributing to the ebb and flow of the ecosystem.
Some of the most powerful images in Commensalism are the trees she chose to include in the series. They are bent in sad ways, hunched over by the stresses of the world. Let these serve as a reminder that the serenity of Aller’s images will no longer exist if we keep up at our current pace. We need to all do our part to make sure this beauty and serenity lasts not just for us, but for generations.
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