I first encountered the physical world photography of Hermes Kondor back in 2020, when he presented a magnificent select of photographs centred on the Tejo Power Station, Lisbon, Portugal, one of the country’s great heritage centres and home to the Electricity Museum (see: The beauty of steam machines in Second Life).
I was, to say the least, immediately smitten by his work: his use of lighting, colour, composition, together with an avoidance of post-processing, these were images inherently and natural captivating. As such, while his focus within Second Life since that time has been establishing the Kondor Arts Centre as a multi-facet arts hub, I have always been excited when I learn that he is exhibiting his own work in-world.
And so, while I could not make the opening at Eviana Raider’s Vibes Gallery, I was keen to hop over and visit It’s All About the Sea as soon as life offered me the time to fully immerse myself in Hermes’ latest exhibition.
For almost our entire history, humankind has had a relationship with the sea. It has been a source of food, a vast spread of blue that has called us to try to reach across its far horizon to touch whatever might lay beyond; it has romanced us with its mysteries and terrified us with it power, It has challenged our urge to conquer and master – if ever we could master so powerful and capricious a force. But, we have also sailed the seas of the world, and learned to harness their power; we have received their bounty and sought to use their power and beauty as a means to partake of sport.
All of this is very much captured in this exhibition, which Hermes has cleverly split into three individual sections within the gallery’s three halls, allowing him to bring forth specific elements of our relationship with the sea.
Within hall 7, Hermes presents Sea & Waves, a magnificent series of 11 photographs focused on the rolling power of breakers and whitecaps as they hurl themselves through the coastal shallows to batter and strike the shore. These are the kind of waves that are fearsome yet fascinating; the directly represent the sheer power the sea holds – and in a way, it’s anger at land’s temerity in trying to confront it and stem its ebb and flow; an action which is at times foolhardy: as the fine grains of sand that form the beaches of our coastlines and island reminds us, the sea is both patient and relentless, and given time, she will wear land down.
In some of these images we can see beyond the curl of wave and sweep of foam to a glittering expanse of ocean stretching out to hazy horizons of the kind that have called to us throughout time to reach towards and beyond. These views are further underscored by the opening stanza of Emily Dickenson’s And if the Sea Should Part underscores the inherent challenge offered by these waves and those far horizons.
In Hall 8, reached via a connecting walkway, the study of waves and the idea of challenge continue, but are presented in an entirely different manner. Here, within a further eleven images, we are presented with Surfer, simply stunning images of surfers taking on and using the power of waves, riding them from initial roll through to where the water repeatedly kisses the shore before retreating once more to re-gather its strength. Thus, through these images, Hermes carries us to a place where our relationship with the sea is bound within the sporting challenge of trying to master its power and demonstrate skill and artistry within its rolling thunder; a love affair between Man and wave that is again carefully amplified through the words of Fernando Pessoa.
The images in Halls 7 and 8 are utterly captivating not only for their subject matter, but in the sheer skill Hermes has used in taking them. The clarity with which he has captured roiling white anger of wave crests as they curl over deep blue-green troughs; and retained the natural blue-green colour of the troughs themselves that call forth thoughts of the depths of the oceans is just stunning, as is the clarity with which Hermes has caught the faces of the surfers. Nor is that all; looking at these pictures one cannot help but hear the roaring boom of the sea’s coastal voice and feel the fine spray of salt carried from wave tops to shore on the accompanying winds.
Across the courtyard in Hall 9, is a series of 15 images that are again utterly masterful in their framing, colour and focus. Beach Workers differs somewhat from Sea & Waves and Surfers, as there is very much a narrative flow to the 15 pieces within it; a story of the sea and its place in our lives as a source of livelihood and of sustenance – and not just for humans. To the left, on entering the hall are five images depicting the life and work of coastal fishermen, taking to the sea against the rolling and split of early-morning waves to cast their nets to seek whatever bounty the waters below might yield, before returning as the Sun lowers itself towards the horizon, and the work of taking the catch and clearing / drying the nets begins.
This is a story that continues through the five images to the right of the hall’s entrance, where the work gains interlopers in the form of gulls and seabirds, perhaps alerted by the commotion on the beach and the scent of fish carried in the breeze, and who have arrived to see what they might get away with helping themselves to. Both of these arms of the gallery then give way to the final five images to the rear, where the fishermen and their wives, their work now done for the day, have mostly retreated from the sands to leave them free for the birds to claim, together with whatever thy might find forgotten or ignored by the fisher folk.
Each and every one of these images is utterly extraordinary in the depth of life it contains, be it aboard the little boats, pushed from the sands and riding their way over the incoming breakers or the swirling, fluttering masses of gulls wheeling in to seek their share of food. Within each picture again, not only is there a beauty of an individual scene, there is a rich suggestion of sound and smell that lifts each one from the level of a “mere” picture to a complete experience / story of life.
With its three interwoven but unique elements, It’s All About the Sea is not only a magnificent celebration of the sea and our relationship with it; it is a triumphal tour de force of the eye and hand of a truly gifted photographer and an exhibition not to be missed.
- Vibes Gallery (Isola Del Giglio, rated: Adult)