Haas’ ’69 photographs deceive (again)

One of his photographs looks like a group of cells on a Petri dish — but they’re actually circular patterns of ice in a frozen pond shot from over the Stony Rapids of Saskatchewan.

A series of aerial photographs shot by Robert Haas ’69 was unveiled on Monday in Kroon Hall by Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery Jock Reynolds. The third-floor display, “Through the Eyes of the Vikings: An Aerial Vision of Artic Lands,” is a series of twelve photographs that range from bird’s eye views of a commercial fishing boat heading out for a catch at dawn in Norway to a lattice of pipelines that make up a thermal energy plant in Iceland. All items in the exhibit depict nature, but they often fool the eye at first glance,

Know what I'm talking about? That totally looks like a baby flamingo, but it's a bunch of adult flamingos hanging out in the form of a huge flamingo made of smaller flamingos. Say flamingo again. Flamingo.
Know what I'm talking about? That totally looks like a baby flamingo, but it's a bunch of adult flamingos hanging out in the form of a huge flamingo made of smaller flamingos. Say flamingo again. Flamingo.

Haas, who is the author of six photographic books, has focused on aerial photography since 2002. His inspiration is simple: to share the mystic, beautiful grandiosity in the world around us. Yale has already seen Haas’ work before though: more of his pieces are on permanent display at the Robert B. Haas Family Library. Having also been published in TIME Magazine and National Geographic, Haas’ photographs have undoubtedly reached a wide audience.

But me — I had never had the opportunity to see Haas’ work until recently. Walking into the wooden archways of Kroon Hall one afternoon, I was greeted with graduate students busily rushing back and forth. Clueless as to where in Kroon Hall his work was housed, I continued up three flights of polished stairs in search of some sort of exhibit.

There, in the middle of the third floor lounge, I came across a photograph, titled “Mackenzie River Delta, Canada.” The photo, which depicts a landscape north of the Inuvik territory, is shot entirely in shades of purple — violet earth, lavender snow, indigo sky — with a touch of warm red in the setting sun. It is majestic, royal even; standing there, it was hard to imagine how beautiful the photograph was, how most of us go through life never being able to see such a place like this in person.

Wooden tables were set up as study spots all around the third floor, near the photographs, with graduate students laboring over projects. Every now and then I would catch one of them look up from his or her work and admire a photograph on the wall, perhaps for inspiration, perhaps for mere visual pleasure.

One of the more striking pieces in the display is a photograph shot in Manitoba, Canada. It appears as if broken shards of glass had been arranged over a black table. Upon first glance, the composition seems almost careless — as if someone had hastily swept the shards into a pile on the ground. Yet, looking closer, the shards, which are actually large slabs of ice floating on the Hudson Bay, are intricately and geometrically arranged. Nature has done this effortlessly, flawlessly. Haas, though, by means of special cameras and a helicopter, takes the extra initiative so that we can appreciate nature just as effortlessly.

Haas’ photographs, which are also displayed on the first and second floors of Kroon Hall, will be on display until March 15.

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