Edina photographer Lynn Geesaman is internationally known for elegant landscapes imbued with a formal beauty that is increasingly rare in contemporary art. Her new show at Thomas Barry Fine Arts features recent American and European images in both color and black-and-white. The gallery also has copies of her new photo book, "Hazy Lights & Shadows" (Husson, Brussels, Belgium, 96 pages, $85), which spans 20 years of her career.
Recently Geesaman talked about her art. Excerpts follow:
Q Where do you most like to photograph and why?
A Opportunities for the kind of formal work I do are more prevalent in Europe and England. I've photographed at Versailles, Bagatelle and Parc de Sceaux, France; at many places in England, and some in Spain and Italy. One of my favorite places is Damme, an ancient town just 4 miles north of Bruges, Belgium, which has a little canal that the farmers probably put in a long time ago. It has everything I like: tall trees, reflections, curves and geometry in both directions -- horizontally and vertically -- so it's very fun to photograph.
I've also photographed pretty successfully in the United States at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia, Avery Island on the Gulf of Mexico and in Filoli Garden just south of San Francisco. That's harder, though, because it's very small and people are watching you all the time there.
Q What are your favorite seasons for photographing?
A Almost any, but we haven't been anywhere in the winter because we're chicken. Usually we travel in spring or fall because [my husband] Don is a gardener and wants to be here in the summer.
Q How much time do you spend photographing at any one site, and what kind of equipment do you use?
A Usually no more than one day, sometimes two days if it's very big. Basically I've learned to ferret out what I really need by walking long distances. I use a tripod and a Hasselblad camera, which means I look down onto the image, which is reversed -- upside down. I put a little hood over my head to block out light. The images are really abstract, a perfect square of something.
Q What do you look for in a landscape?
A I look for trees and order. I love canals, especially curving ones, and rows of trees that have been trimmed so they don't have branches sticking out all over the place. Also trees that are curved from constant wind and planted close together so they're like a fence. I also like reflections and allées of trees that mirror each other. There's something twin-like about them, and I'm a twin.
I like cows when I can find them; one of my favorite photos is of big fat cows walking along a canal near Bruges. They were oblivious to my camera, just wonderful. Whenever small animals appear in a picture -- cats, rabbits -- they're a lucky find, but they're rare.
Q How do you decide if a picture should be in color or black-and-white?
A I often take both because I'm not sure which will work out the best. Color is less difficult because your eye is just drawn to it naturally, like candy. For black-and-white you really have to stop and think because everything is green and you need to find incredible shapes and recognize shades so it's not just a big gray picture.
Q Traditional ideas of beauty are out of fashion in art these days, yet your work is full of it. How do you define beauty?
A I can't define it. I know what it is to me, but everybody has to make up their own mind about beauty. Maybe I saw a lot of painting at the Cleveland Museum when I was growing up, and I have a feeling for classical times. But I'm not trying to copy anything from the pictorialists or from the past. It's just my own vision of what I like.
Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431