Harbor Galaxy

As with most art genres in Second Life© the category photography is not easily defined. What we have are various photography subcategories like fashion photography, portrait photography, erotic photography, fractal photography, landscape photography, the list goes on. Then there is the fine art photography by Harbor Galaxy. I stumbled upon her work by chance whilst visiting an art gallery in Second Life. Struck by the beauty of her photographs, I was left with the sense that her work belonged in a class of its own. Besides that which is obvious to a viewer’s eye, like the well thought-out compositions, the bright colors and the subtle influence of light, reflected in Galaxy’s work is a sort of blurring of virtual and non-virtual boundaries. To me, this is the hallmark of her work; the seamless integration of both virtual and non-virtual visual aspects to the point where it becomes unclear which is which.

                 -Kate Bergdorf

 

INTERVIEWER

How did you get into virtual photography?

GALAXY

I am something of a purpose driven person. I had tried building but there were so many others who were doing it so much better that didn’t seem like such a good idea. I had always had an interest in photography and just thought “Why not?”

INTERVIEWER

What inspires you, in general? And is there anything specifically that inspires you to take photographs here?

GALAXY

I love the dream like quality of Second Life and how you can infuse a sense of mystery into your vision.

INTERVIEWER

I often feel the same way here. Can you say something more about the dream like quality experience?

GALAXY

Second Life provides me with an environment in which I can look at deeper emotions that I perhaps don’t access as much in my Real Life, I was going to say waking life.

INTERVIEWER

Your photograph And the Seas Shall Rise is very dreamlike to me. It reminds me a little of the watercolor paintings by the Swedish painter and illustrator John Bauer (1882 to 1918). Where in Second Life did you take this particular photograph?

GALAXY

I took that photo at Moving Islands, which is a LEA installation curated by Eupalinos Ugajin. The build itself was done by Meilo Minotaur. I was struck by the way she had the land sinking beneath the wave and the surreal nature of the creatures and it put me in mind of the global climate change and I felt I had to try to capture a kind of Cassandra moment. Does that make sense? I was thinking of those old master pieces where there is something going on in different parts of the canvas.

INTERVIEWER

It does make sense to me. I haven’t seen that build by Minotaur, but I think it is probably still there so I will take a look. Yes, I can see the sort of split up parts in the photograph, little scenes of sorts at different places. Very cool. I also love the colors in that photograph and your sense of colors in general. You know, I was so surprised to hear that you are not an artist in Real Life. You are not in any kind of creative field in any way?

And the Seas Shall Rise
And the Seas Shall Rise. Photograph by Harbor Galaxy.

GALAXY

Thank you. Meilo and her artistic partner CapCat Ragu are some of my favorite installation artists in Second Life. No, although I grew up with a mother who was very artistic and did oil painting and I have an aunt that does wonderful portraits. I never really took it up. I did do a bit of sketching when I was very young, but never kept it up. I was a theatre major in college so I do have a flair for the dramatic, but that’s about it. I wanted to say that one of the best things about Second Life as an artistic medium is how democratic it is and how forgiving. It is a place where you can really play and discover your inner artist.

INTERVIEWER

Yes. And in some way it actually also makes sense to me that you are not an artist in Real Life. I think this virtual environment is a great place for us to discover aspects of ourselves that we otherwise would not. Do you think your photography has changed over the time you have been here?

GALAXY

Exactly. I think as we age we forget our ability to play and in this environment it feels a little safer perhaps to experiment and see where your creativity takes you. When I first started, I looked primarily at this world through the builders perspective perhaps. I took a lot of abstract shots looking at angles and such. As I became a bit more confident I started working more with the avatar, which I thought was difficult. It is hard to bring an emotional content to something that has no mode of expression. Somewhere in there I began being involved in the use of saturated color and trying to use color to help provide emotional content. It’s a work in progress, always.

INTERVIEWER

Considering what you just said, do you think taking photographs gets more difficult or easier with time?

GALAXY

I think for me it becomes more difficult. When I’m taking pictures I’m looking for a moment, a kind of aha moment. It usually has some to do with the light and color of the space I’m in and then I try to build on that moment. But because I work this way it’s easy to say the same thing over and over again. This is why I think it’s becomes more difficult for me. I’m always in awe of artist that know what they want to say from the beginning and then go about putting it together. Very few of my pieces start out like that.

INTERVIEWER

Tell me about the photograph Leave Taking. I like the contrasting red and black and also the way the female figure is almost absorbed in the black. Do you remember what you were thinking when you took it? Where was it taken?

GALAXY

I was taken by the color scheme and the almost architectural structure of her dress. I thought the black, white with the red elements gave it a strong graphic quality. And I loved the avatar walking out of the frame, it seems to give a sense of movement to an otherwise static shot. It was taken at a Rose Borchovski’s LEA installation, the Russian Avant Garde. I’m a big fan of some of the LEA installations.

Leave Taking
Leave Taking. Photograph by Harbor Galaxy.

INTERVIEWER

The thing that strikes me in many of your photographs is that you somehow are able to incorporate the virtual and the non-virtual. Do you know what I mean?

GALAXY

Maybe, and this is just a thought, because the work really isn’t about Second Life per se, it’s about a moment that is emotionally based taken from my Real Life experiences.

INTERVIEWER

Yes, I agree, it is about emotion and you capture it. Another one of your works, Red Cape Against Blue Sky, is more like a watercolor painting than a photograph. It has a Georgia O’Keeffeish quality to it. There is something incredibly sensual going on there! What inspired you to create this work?

GALAXY

It’s that damn cape! I love it and have used it in quite of few pieces. I think the structure of the cape itself in very sensual, it’s curves and flair and feeling of movement built into the garment. Whenever I wear it, it kind of demands a picture of some sort. I also like the faceless quality in that piece. The body language tells the story.

Red Cape Against Blue Sky
Red Cape Against Blue Sky. Photograph by Harbor Galaxy.

INTERVIEWER

Who do you think are some of the artists who have influenced your work the most?

GALAXY

That is really so hard to say because most of the influences are subliminal. I’m a big fan of Edward Hopper and I like the strong color of Van Gogh. You know, I really have no idea. I’ve had people tell me that a picture has a particular feeling to it like a certain artist but I really couldn’t say that any one artist is a primary influence.

INTERVIEWER

There is something wonderfully archaic about Sins Coming Home to Roost. I love the fantasy aspect, that the female figure is neither a human or animal. And, again, with this work I get the sense that it could be a watercolor painting, not necessarily a photograph. First I though perhaps you had taken it at A.M. Radio’s The Far Away, but looking closer it may have been shot elsewhere. Where did you take it? And what went through your mind as your were taking this photograph?

GALAXY

I love this picture. It was taken at a little temporary sim that was constructed for the Krosmomer Project. It was a project in which avatars and poses were provided to anyone who wanted them to create pictures or videos depicting various Norwegian folktales. The artists involved in creating this project were Heidi Dahlsveen, Mimesis Monday, Frigg Ragu, CapCat Ragu, Meilo Minotaur and Merete Grimeland. The only thing from this project I used for this shot was the location. I loved the sense of space and the fields of grass. The headpiece was one that was created by Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu. I loved the hearts hanging from the branches. When I took the shot or, several shots actually, the hearts reminded me of the regrets or sins that we carry around with us. I put the birds in to create a sense of menace, a price to be paid. Everything has a price. Oh, that sounds so dark!

INTERVIEWER

Beautiful, really. What do you want people to take away from your photographs?

Sins Coming Home to Roost
Sins Coming Home to Roost.  Photograph by Harbor Galaxy.

GALAXY

I want the viewer to, for just a moment, share that aha moment I experienced when I took the shot. A recognition of a shared emotion.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have any advice or suggestions for aspiring virtual world photographers?

GALAXY

Play, play, play. Experiment with form and color. Whether you use Gimp or Photoshop, press all the buttons and see what they can do. It’s how you find your voice.

INTERVIEWER

Finally, if you could choose only one of your photographs for an art photography exhibit, which one would it be and why?

GALAXY

That’s like picking your favorite child! I do love Sins Coming Home to Roost and I have some others that aren’t as popular but I love because they are different. I just finished one called Still Waters that I like a great deal. It’s different from what a normally do and I have another favorite, Borderlands.

INTERVIEWER

Thank you, Harbor, for meeting with me at such a late hour and for answering these questions. It has been such a great pleasure spending time getting to know you.

GALAXY

Thank you, Kate. This is my first time being interviewed and it was painless, who knew? It was a real pleasure.

 

 

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