Alain Briot's Isle Royale Reflection

"How does one represent nature? This question was very much part of my experience as Isle Royale Artist in Residence. I had just started working with digital photography and was eager to explore the possibilities of this new medium.

Isle Royale offered the perfect location to try digital tools, especially the possibility to combine photographs. The island was home to a combination of elements which could difficulty be captured in a single image. Take the moose-wolf interaction for example. To successfully capture a scene in which a wolf and a moose are interacting in the Isle Royale landscape a photographer would either have to be extremely fortunate or spend much more than the two weeks my residency lasted. During my stay on the Island I saw this interaction as central to my vision of Isle Royale. However, capturing it by traditional means would not have resulted in what I had in mind. Digital imaging allowed me to capture isolated elements of a pre-visualized image and assemble them into a single image once back to my studio on the mainland.

I used traditional cameras -35mm and 2 1/4- during my stay on Isle Royale. I shot about 100 rolls of film, knowing that more was better since I could easily edit the film to a few selected images while returning to the island would be difficult. I shot landscapes and details and made a special trip to Rolf Peterson’s place across from Daisy Farms where I photographed his collection of Moose antlers knowing that these were going to be part of a final image.

I was unfortunate in my attempts at photographing one of the Isle Royale wolves and had to travel to the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota to take the portrait of a Timber Wolf. The wolves there were much more cooperative and essentially similar to those on Isle Royale.

Once back to the mainland I had my films developed, selected approximately 100 photographs and had then scanned (digitized) in the Kodak Photo CD format. I then imported the scans on my computer using Adobe Photoshop.
A cluster of beautiful bright orange, large flowers with black spots on them
Wood Lilies

NPS/Katie Keller

The photographs were enhanced in several ways. With each image I sought to explore one of the experiences I had while on Isle Royale: the vivid colors of the Wood Lilies in the midst of so much greenness; the importance of a canoe in the watery expanse of lakes, channels and rivers; the surprise encounter of a moose around a bend in the path; the beauty and history of a lighthouse in a landscape pretty much left to itself; the deadly but ancestral interaction of Moose and Wolves.

With each image I decided to alter the original photograph in some way so that the completed series would hold together as images that are more than photographs. Often, I combined several photographs to create an electronic collage. Sometimes, I found that simply changing the color of the original photograph slightly was enough to imbue the image with the feeling I sought to create.

This residency allowed me to explore the possibilities of the latest medium while living on an island where life had remained simple and primeval. Traditionally, landscape artists have sought new tools to express their vision. I see my work as fitting into this tradition while attempting to push the envelope a little bit further."

- Alain Briot, December 2018

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Last updated: December 13, 2019

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