Farther Than the Eye Can See: Mako Miyamoto’s “The Spectral Divide”

Photographer Mako Miyamoto‘s latest series, “The Spectral Divide,” which is on display through the end of the month at Stephanie Chefas Projects in Portland, is aptly titled: each vivid and cinematic photo evokes a buffet of haunting sensations, tinged with everything from awestruck curiosity to a creeping sense of inexplicable fear. Inspired by the staggering spectrum of infared light that exists just beyond the scope of our naked eye, the series immerses you in a startling and unseen landscape, pulling back the curtain on our own world, asking you to surrender to a surreal new light.

Miyamoto’s landscapes seem to delight in transporting you to a world within a world, a place that feels both familiar and fantastical: his fully-realized figures roam through forests, mountain ranges, and golden fields of wheat emanating with an eerie glow of radiation, desolate terrains awash in reds and oranges and blues that vibrate with  a palpable and energized heat. It’s unsettling and otherworldly, to witness mountain ranges dyed a volcanic deep crimson and rich saffron-tinted trees, all beneath a sky that feels mercilessly, violently blue. It feels like the world that comes after our world, quietly unfolding amidst the rubble, stark and dystopian and eternally ablaze, a hint of danger lurking just out of frame.

The people in his photos wear space suits and gas masks and helmets, and they are connected to webs of wires and clunky oxygen tanks – this saturated world, whatever or wherever it is, feels post-apocalyptic, and it’s difficult not to feel a sharp and tangible sense of doom, a whisper of what will happen if the world keeps warming and we keep turning a blind eye. You can almost physically feel the heat bearing down on you. You could almost fall into the wide open expanse of vivid and desperate loneliness.

In that sense, it’s something of a relief to remember that this alien terrain is a world that already exists, just outside of our limited frame of view. This is what happens if we see the world for what it actually is. This stark and saturated landscape of rippling waves of heat is closer than we can even imagine, brushing past us like a ghost, reminding us that reality is a place we ourselves have created, and that there is so much more to be seen if we could only just open our eyes.

Miyamoto created the series, which includes a short film, over the course of 10 months, in which he shot exclusively on a modified camera that allowed him to capture the spectrum of infared light, giving the photos their haunting authenticity, and offering us a evocative glimpse into a parallel reality that frankly feels closer than ever before. Catch “The Spectral Divide” at Stephanie Chefas Projects (305 SE 3rd Avenue, Portland, Oregon) through November 30th.

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