Academic journal article Afterimage

Springing Backward

Academic journal article Afterimage

Springing Backward

Article excerpt




MAY 19-AUGUST 12, 2007

Barton Springs, located in Austin, Texas, covers three acres in Zilker Park. With a supply of fresh underground water, the average temperature hovers around sixty-eight degrees throughout the year, attracting many tourists and residents. However, this natural site becomes the most significant respite when the high temperatures arrive each summer. In 1983, after studying photography with Russell Lee and Gary Winogrand at the University of Texas, Will van Overbeek photographed the pool at Barton Springs for Rolling Stone magazine and expanded it into the book 24 Summers, seeking to capture the exchange between geography and the experiences therein. Developed over the course of twenty-four years, the photographer collected the shared experience of vast numbers of people while bearing witness to little visual change in the landscape.


Barton Springs is the fourth largest spring in Texas and was created after land shifted, rendering the Balcones Fault. The springs became a park in 1918. Flowing through the Edwards Aquifier, this site hosted a diverse number of functions including baptisms and musical performances. Centuries ago, the Native Americans used these waters as a healing source. Overbeek's photographs in the exhibition "24 Summers at Barton Springs Pool" build upon this extensive history and capture a communal life in its own ebullient stasis. Sunbathing (1996) depicts three young women laying in the sun without making the viewer feel like a voyeur. In fact, most of the subjects rarely look directly at the camera or seem to even know that it is there. However, Girls Leaping (1996) reveals a co-operation between the photographer and his subject to render that precarious second before the splash pulls one underwater.

Populated landscapes can pose problems for photographers since the depiction of people as subjects not only distracts the eye from the surrounding environment but could potentially distance the viewer. "'Around here,' where we live," wrote Lucy Lippard, "is a circular notion, embracing and radiating from the specific place where generalizations about land, landscape, and nature come home to roost. 'Out there' is a line of sight, the view, a metaphor for linear time." (1) In the 1970s, Stephen Shore explored the colorful but unpopulated landscape. …

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