By Rod Lotter
Order and chaos, beauty and ugliness, new and old, the familiar and the foreign — these are the juxtapositions that catch the eye of Seattle photographer Kevin Wildermuth.
“I’m really drawn to the difference between the sacred and the profane,” Wildermuth said of his work.
Wildermuth’s new exhibition, “Alternate Views,” is the perfect example of how different — and how alike — we all are, no matter where we call home. The exhibition is a series of photos that the Mount Baker resident took while on vacation in Oaxaca, Mexico, and then a series of corresponding photos that he took in the Fremont and Capitol Hill neighborhoods of his hometown that particularly reminded him Oaxaca. The photos can be viewed via QR codes located in storefronts and on utility poles throughout the two Seattle neighborhoods.
“When I first went to Mexico, I was bombarded by all the colors and other crazy stuff,” Wildermuth said. “But, at the same time, there was a lot Oaxaca had in common with Seattle.”
The placards are bright yellow, laminated and about the size of an average sheet of paper.
Wildermuth said the comparison between Seattle and Oaxaca may not make sense at first glance, but he thought that both of the cities have a lot more in common than anyone would assume.
“Both cities have a lot of trees, although they are different kinds of trees,” he said. “There is some great graffiti in both cities, and they both are pretty left-leaning, liberal places.”
A sense of familiarity
The goal of the exhibition is to have people scan the QR code to view the photo from Oaxaca and then compare that photo to what they see in front of them. Wildermuth purposefully paired the photos from Mexico with the scenes where the QR codes are placed. One memorable photo compares the bright-red construction wall at the new Capitol Hill light-rail station site on Broadway with a metallic, shabby-looking construction wall in Oaxaca.
One thing that is obvious in Wildermuth’s work is his love of color and patterns; they are evident in every photo he takes. One thing you will rarely see in his work are people.
“I always felt like, when I took photos of people, they always put on a facade and I never really got to see the real person behind it,” he explained. “Instead, I became interested in shooting people’s stuff, the artifacts that they leave behind. That is where the tension lies with me.”
Instead of faces in his photos, you see walls, poorly maintained business signs, unkempt lawns, clouds and overzealously pruned trees. Yet, the lack of people in the photos does not give the work a feeling of emptiness or loneliness; rather, it gives the viewer a sense of the child-like glee and
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