Elegantly serene: Brian Day's photographic landscapes at M Contemporary

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News
Brian Day's landscapes are at Ferndale's M Contemporary through Aug. 17.

Photographer Brian Day may have first come to your attention with his 2018 show of black-and-white drone photography, "Detroit from Above." 

Exhibited at Ferndale's M Contemporary gallery, "Above" was an arresting exercise in sharp-edged pictures of spaghetti-like freeway interchanges, and the tops of Detroit skyscrapers that read more like geometry than architecture.

But if you thought Day just strapped his camera to flying objects, you'd be wrong, as his current show of elegantly moody landscapes at M Contemporary, "A Moment Away," makes clear. The exhibition is up through Aug. 17. 

"It’s funny," Day said, "because a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, you’re the drone guy!’" He laughed. "And I don’t really want to touch a drone again. It was just for that series."

The muted color images in "A Moment Away" are blown up to dramatic size, and in contrast to the precise outlines of "Detroit from Above," these dreamy landscapes -- many of which feature water -- have a soft-edged quality. Indeed, the work calls to mind the pictorialist movement of the late 19th-century, when photographers deliberately produced images that bore some resemblance to paintings.

Many of the pictures in "A Moment Away," which was shot over six years, feature paths or ribbons of water leading one deep into the picture, suggesting a passage to some sort of serenity. 

"I shot the first images around 2013," Day recalled. "I’d taken a trip to San Francisco to teach workshops on street and architectural photography. I had a lot going on, and decided I wanted to take a day and get away from the city."

A couple pictures in "A Moment Away" come from that excursion to the Sonoma coastline, but the rest, Day said, were all shot around the Great Lakes. 

But you won't know by looking at the gallery labels, which don't identify location. 

"The series is really about self care," Day said, "and it doesn't matter where your safe space is. We all get stressed out, and don’t necessarily have the opportunity to run away from our problems. But it's nice to step away for a minute and unpack things." 

As it happens, local shots came from Port Crescent State Park at the tip of the thumb, Point Pelee in Canada, and Crosswinds Marsh County Park in New Boston. 

"Brian has a very strong sense of composition and light," said M Contemporary owner and director Melannie Chard. "They're in the vein of the traditional landscape," she added, "but don't feel at all pedestrian. They're unique."

Interestingly, while you might think prints of this size and detail must have been produced with a large-format camera, they were actually shot with Day's standard 35 mm digital camera.

'Brian Day: A Moment Away'

Through Aug. 17

M Contemporary, 205 E. 9 Mile, Ferndale 

Noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Fri; noon-5 p.m. Sat. 

(347) 665 - 7011



(313) 222-6021 

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy