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Look Park - Ralph Steiner


Rental Format(s): Digital File

LOOK PARK (1973-74) Ralph Steiner

"Photographer-filmmaker Ralph Steiner returned to creative filmmaking with a series of 16mm experimental films "The Joy of Seeing" begun after 1960. In many of these new film works, he revisited his first and early abstract films "H2O," "SURF AND SEAWEED" and "MECHANICAL PRINCIPLES" from 1929-1930 but now worked with sound-image combinations to highlight motions and rhythms of the natural world.

He favored older classical and new electronic music to accompany the images in playful interactions testing the viewer's ability to enjoy visual music.

"LOOK PARK" presents close up shots of a country stream viewed in bright sunlight. The film opens with wide shots of the park to establish the location of the water, then focuses in very tight on the abstract reflections and shadows.

The music, a unique recording of a electronic composition by American composer Jacob Druckman, enlivens the ecstatic images skillfully edited by a young Nathaniel Dorsky.

Stunningly beautiful, the results live up to Steiner's series title "The Joy of Seeing" as well as the film's title "LOOK PARK."

Please note that the sign that opens and closes the film actually identifies the place as LOOK PARK, another humorous touch of Steiner's playful approach to art-making." -Bruce Posner


Nathaniel Dorsky, editor of Look Park, 2021
"What is most important and a tribute to Ralph is the fact that now the film itself has present day visual meaning... or should I say, all is working as film expression now... all that Ralph would want... "


Ralph Steiner on Light, 1978
"The medieval alchemist spent his days attempting to turn lead into gold. If only he had glanced out his window as the sun came from behind a cloud, what a turning of lead into gold he'd have seen - especially if the sun got behind things to shine through them. The sun doesn't have to shine on tropical foliage to make magic; it makes it in your own backyard if you are open to magic. As Thoreau put it: "Only that day dawns to which we are alive."...people will fly to Europe to look at the adoration which Rembrandt, Caravaggio, La Tour paid to light - they will stand in awe in the center of that great vaulted room of colored glass, the Sainte Chapelle, but at home, if martinis are waiting indoors, they will not slow down to look as the grass around the door turns incandescent in the setting sun. And there's a lot more sunset grass in our lives than Saint Chapelles or paintings in museums.


Educated at Dartmouth, Ralph Steiner became a successful commercial and much honored fine art photographer. He made perhaps the first American abstract film, H2O (1929), following it with other experiments, some political in nature, some in Hollywood. Steiner also photographed with Paul Strand The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936), and co-directed and photographed The City (1939) with Willard Van Dyke and Henwar Rodakiewicz.
-ROBERT A. HALLER

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