By Marcy Stamper
For photographer Ken Libby, a scratched and blemished roll of film became a serendipitous opportunity to build on his affinity for the work of early 20th-century photographers of the Himalayas.
Libby shot the film on a trip to the Himalayas in 2001 but, after it got damaged in processing, he put the photos aside. Yet when he recently came across the old negatives, Libby found many of the images compelling and decided to see what he could do with them.
“The process of going through those photos has been really special,” said Libby. “It’s a look back in time – I realize how significant that phase in life was for me.”
The photos Libby has collected for the exhibit “Taking Refuge: Journey Through Time in the Himalayas” – which opens Nov. 9 at The Studio in Twisp – are a true mixed-media project. Libby blended old and new technologies, scanning the negatives and then working with digital images, which he ultimately turned into dye-infused metal prints. “The photos have a textured, earthy feel, with the blemishes – I wanted it to look old,” said Libby.
Mounted on steel and set in frames Libby built from bamboo and other hardwoods, the photos have a three-dimensional quality, with depth and shadows. “It’s sort of mixed-media. The whole thing is the art,” said Libby.
The images include sacred mountains, Tibetan Buddhist sites, snake handlers and street life. Libby, who has made three trips to the Himalayas, has become fascinated by and come to love the culture.
“Taking Refuge” explores themes of aging, reflection and spirituality, both on a personal level and in terms of the evolution of photography. It conveys Libby’s personal journey from a young man and photographer to his life today as a father and carpenter in the Methow Valley. “Seeing the pictures all together, it evolved into more of a journey than I expected,” he said.
“Taking Refuge” will be on view at The Studio through the end of January. There is an opening reception on Saturday, Nov. 9, from 4 to 8 p.m.