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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Frans Lanting - LIFE

For world-renowned photographer Frans Lanting, the Life project became more than a display of photography

The Journey

Frans Lanting is a masterful storyteller. His photographs and words, in worldwide exhibits and award-winning photo books, such as Eye To Eye, Penguin and Okavango: Africa's Last Eden, garner consistent praise and awards for their tightly orchestrated and artful representations of the natural world. But to paint his incipient vision of life through time, Lanting sought to expand the canvas. Thus, Life: A Journey Through Time—initially a large-format book published by Taschen, then American and European touring exhibitions, then an innovative interactive Website (www.lifethroughtime.com)—evolved to include a landmark multimedia presentation: LIFE Music.

A landmark in digital visual presentation, the multimedia performance had its live orchestral premiere in September 2006 at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Conductor Marin Alsop is a study in utter focus. The digitally projected program is on a frozen time track: her task, and hers alone, is to keep everything in perfect synchronization for an entire hour. Deep cello chords reverberate through the concert hall. She feels the sweeping pace, anticipates where the orchestra needs to be. It's a constant effort: Philip Glass' music, by turns sweet and furious, is looser than traditional classical works. At times, she must gradually slow down or speed up the orchestra to ensure notes and images intersect perfectly for maximum effect.

Life Music sprang from a conversation Lanting had with Marin Alsop, who, as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is the first woman ever to head a major orchestra.

“Marin comes to the Cabrillo Festival every year to experiment with new forms of music,” remembers Lanting. “When I showed her my images and told the stories behind them, she got very excited.”

The next step: find a musical partner. Alsop suggested the prolific composer Philip Glass, already a favorite of Lanting. She made a call. Before long, the three met in New York City. Glass reviewed the images as Lanting narrated his seven-segment storyline. “Philip said, ‘Sure,'” Lanting recalls. “It was pretty much a gut feeling on his part.”

In a later NPR interview, Glass recounts the meeting. “I thought [the images] were beautiful, but I really didn't know what we would end up with.”

Lanting's next step was to do a new edit of the images—nearly 400, twice as many as for the book published by Taschen. “I knew I had to sequence the images in a different way from the book. I would have to keep the continuity and flow of music in mind.”


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