Where … or what … is heaven on Earth?

“Where … or what … is heaven on Earth?”

At one time or another, perhaps on vacation to a beautiful spot or after a good meal with friends and family or slipping into your dream dress, everyone has sighed contentedly, “This is heaven.” It’s a very real moment that lingers in your heart, that you can return to when life takes a nosedive, that leads you to cross your fingers and think, “I’ll get there again.” 

For nine National Geographic photographers, their interpretation of heaven on Earth was on exhibit at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery (1632 U Street, NW), and can also be seen in a gorgeous book entitled “Visions of Paradise.” Each photographer showed three images, and true to the subjective and personal nature of each one’s paradise, the images spanned the globe from Africa to Montana to China, and took for their subject landscapes, animals, and people.

The exhibit struck me with two things: First, even within the expansive nature scenes or the action shots of people, there was an intimacy that each photographer captured, whether it was a blurred, extreme close-up of a gorilla, as in “Mirithi” by Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols; or a lone diver with a ship wreck, as in “Wreck of the MV Keith Tibbetts” by David Doubilet; or a group of boys performing a ritual dance, as in “Mbuti Pygmy Boys” by Randy Olson.

Second, and expressed beautifully by the gallery director Sandy Rossi, photography—perhaps more than any other art form—lends itself to storytelling. Each of the 27 frames in the gallery held a fleeting moment that is part of a larger story, and it is the story behind these images that qualifies them as paradise.

My two favorite photographers from the exhibit were Beverly Joubert and Jodi Cobb. Joubert and her husband are currently the National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence in Botswana, and the extreme conditions and near-death experiences seem worth it when you see their photographs. My favorite image of hers is “Baobab Queen,” a 20 x 24 photograph of a massive baobab tree that fills the frame. Popping brightly out against the brown or the branches and trunk is a colorful leopard, perched on a limb for an afternoon nap.

Cobb, who photographs the intimate stories in hidden and dangerous worlds, presented three images full of exquisite detail and color, each one striking an emotional chord in me. It was in her images—”Venice Carnavale,” “Lake Thun,” and “London Taxi”—that I found a vision of paradise that coincides with my own, full of silence, magic, mystery, and beauty.

The next show at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery is “Stars and Stripes,” presenting artists’ interpretation of the American flag. The exhibit, opening January 9th at 5:30 pm, promises to be provocative and should not be missed. I’ll see you there!

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Posted in: Art

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