ARTHUR OLLMAN CURATORIAL STATEMENT Prayer flags snapping in constant wind, casting hopes and wishes far into the surrounding mountain-scape. Brilliant highlights throwing shadows on the stones. In high crystalline air, colors crackle brightly. Intense sunshine slams into walls and pools at doorways, and some shyly seeps into interior corners. Old nuns drift past. They are their own shadows. Light and dark, somehow more extreme at altitude. Tibet worked some sort of alchemy on Marissa Roth. It brought her into a new realm of seeing. Not mystical, not magic. But unlike anything she had understood before. The unreeling of a long visual sentence or a scroll of movie film. Frame blending into frame, blurring, bleeding colors into transparency. She was uninterested in making distinct, isolated, disconnected images. The crisp clarity attracted her. Men walk by wearing shards of light, scraps of shadow. Radiant sun splinters down on buildings in the cold air. In this place wind and light are inextricable. The wind pushing and sculpting shadows, revealing and concealing where it travels. When Ms. Roth found the light faded, wrinkled, distended, ragged, shot through with dark holes, then that became the subject of her images. Light is invisible until it is interrupted by something. Only then do we see what it has illuminated. Only where light has snagged on something can it be photographed. Rags of sunshine caught in the wind scatter images and send them tumbling like so many dried leaves into her camera, found bits of colorful conversation. But light is indifferent to human concerns. It falls equally on the suffering and the dead or the triumphant and the vivid. Marissa Roth is moving. Is moved. Is paying attention to the wind driving everything before it. Air in motion feeds her inspiration, the corollary of respiration. The mountains are breathing. Colors smear in the emulsion, becoming translucent veils, gels of color. Spatters of light stutter over stony textures, glide over puddles and ponds and retreat into monastery corners, lifted lazily into the air on incense. A brilliant red daisy floats on shallow water. At the bottom of the vessel are hundreds of Yuan notes, offerings of pilgrims. In the water we also see a reflection of high clouds. Looking down is looking up, wet is dry. Roth seems mesmerized, borne along on waves of vision. Among Roth’s photographs, trees dance, the landscape flows past her car, a cloud from one image rhymes with a fleeting roadside view of a pond mirroring a mountain’s snowy veil in another. A red bow of paint on a scratched and smudged window points to the red tatters of a prayer offering caught in a tree branch. Blurs of nuns and monks and monastery red appear again and again, a defining fugue. She drifts across colorful scenes, a shadow passing over a Kandinsky canvas. Every culture’s identity stems from its topography. Climate, agriculture, occupations, architecture, clothing, food, and language all start with the place. Place provides the structure of the ecosystem, and its society. Tibet’s light and high dry air are as much a part of its cultural identity as are prayer flags and the singing bowls of the monastery. Wind, water and light shape the land; and thus the religion, the understanding of reality. These things cannot be pried apart. Many who have photographed Tibet fall into the trope of seeing this civilization as locked away from the predations of time. A place where an ancient culture preserves something unique, something lost elsewhere. Its corollary is that we are of our moment and they are somehow timeless exotics. But these are children, men and women of their time just as we are. Tibet is not primitive, not timeless. This is the way Tibet looks now. Our “now” is the same “now” that they experience. But for a slight turn of the earth the light that falls here might have fallen on a supermarket in Dallas or a freeway in LA. There is only one now and we all occupy it. That is the instant that photographs record. Photographs are always of their time and never timeless. Marissa Roth has not made pictures like this before, giving herself over to a place. No design in advance, no expectations but to be pulled by light and shape, color and shadow. Her vision drifts from one enticing notation to another. Images flicker, rhythmic, non-narrative, staccato, fragments pour out, visual free association. These photographs might best be regarded not as individual images but rather one long “visual chant.” Ms. Roth’s past work has been much about the human drama in places of intense conflict. Narratives of sorrow laced with beauty. Her images have been about loss and human endurance. She has photographed for more than 30 years all over the world, and has done both commercial and editorial work. The constant is an intense interest in humanity, especially in how people pull themselves together and move on after tragedy. Ms. Roth’s attraction and responsibility was always to the person in front of her camera. In such photographs the light merely needed to be sufficient. But in the Tibet images, Ms. Roth’s subject is light. These pictures do not illustrate something, instead they are something. Bathed in color and movement, Marissa Roth discovers a kind of liquid light. She photographed not so much an image but rather an energy, a sort of visual propulsion. Photographs not as nouns, but as verbs. This group of images then, offers a moment of the pulsing lifeblood, the wind, the color and the flow of Tibet. In 1983 Arthur Ollman became the founding Director of the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), in San Diego, serving there for 23 years. He curated more than 100 exhibitions. They have been seen in 9 countries and many great museums. He built a museum collection of more than 7,000 objects and a research library of 27,000 volumes. He has written all or parts of 25 books, and numerous articles. From 2006 to 2011 he directed the School of Art, Design and Art History at San Diego State University, and continues to teach at SDSU. He is currently Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, an international organization dedicated to creating and circulating important exhibitions and catalogs around the world. Arthur Ollman has been a photographer for 45 years. He has had more than 25 One Person exhibitions in museums and galleries world-wide. He has been part of more than 60 group exhibitions and his art is in many museums and both private and corporate collections.