Photographer Alan McGee’s landscape photographs seek to capture the human feeling behind the image

by Frances Freyberg on April 4, 2019

Photographer Alan McGee of Portola Valley is the featured artist at the Portola Art Gallery in April with an exhibit titled “Woodlands.”  The show features photographs from the last half century of his explorations in the land adjacent to his home. A reception for the artist will be held on Saturday, April 13, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Gallery (Allied Arts Guild, 75 Arbor Rd., Menlo Park).

“The landscape near my Portola Valley home is the San Francisquito Creek watershed, which has its headwaters on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains,” explains Alan. “The San Francisquito creek, joined by its tributaries Corte Madera and Los Trancos creeks, flows into the San Francisco Bay. The evergreen Coast Live Oak and the deciduous Valley Oak and the creeks were the primary subjects of my early landscape photography. I gave little thought as to why I was attracted to this place other than for its obvious scenic beauty.”

Influenced by the work of photographer Aaron Siskind, Alan’s approach to photography began to change as he stretched his imagination to view and capture the landscape around him in a new way, and sought to reveal the human feelings behind each image.

“I gradually recognized that, for me, the primary aim of artistic photography, as I believe it is with all art, is the expression of human emotion,” he said. “Subject matter plays a secondary role. What I have attempted to achieve in these photographs is a synthesis, joining the natural beauty of the landscape with its more abstract expressive possibilities, often through metaphor, that seem to exist in those landscapes.

“My intention is to engage the viewer in a ‘Visual Dialogue,’ with the print acting as a catalyst for the viewer’s imagination. I have come to the conclusion that the strongest works of art are those that have multiple layers of meaning, and I am passionate about combining feeling and form in equal measure.”

“Woodlands” is also the title of Alan’s newest book, published in March of 2019. This book is part of Alan’s efforts, as an octogenarian, to create a photographic legacy. His first book, published in 2014, is entitled Rodin Revisited, and is placed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Musée Rodin in Paris, and the Cantor Art Museum at Stanford University. The second book is entitled “Beauty & Terror” (2016). He plans to publish two more books and place them in libraries and museums that will make his work accessible beyond his lifespan.

“Coast Live Oak (11×14”, photograph, 1998) is one of the featured artworks in Alan McGee’s April exhibit “Woodlands” at the Portola Art Gallery.”

Alan McGee photographed by Frances Freyberg in 2014; InMenlo file photo

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