Photo by Abrahamina Verhoef
Abrahamina Verhoef is more than a photographer. She is a visual artist. Her photographs of nature are edgy, always instilling wonder and, sometimes, foreboding.
Take the opportunity to see her work at an exhibition of eight artists in Coja at Editorial Mouro Pinto until September 15.
Her work, like that of the American painter Georgia O’Keefe, can transport an object from reality to surreality. In O’Keefe’s Summer Days, for example, an imposing sun-bleached deer skull with antlers floats above a diminutive yellow blossom and a tiny grouping of desert flowers in a cloudy sky above red hills.
Verhoef’s Tachyon also propels an everyday image to a place of fantasy. It is a photograph of a wildflower seen on roadsides in central Portugal. The tall blossom, which looks like deadly carrot, is photographed from below, looking up at a robust white tapering stem. At the end of the stem, green spokes shoot out clusters of yellow flowers into a blueish sky, disturbed by wisps of cirrus clouds and a blinding sun. A tachyon is a hypothetical particle that travels faster than light. Because of the particle’s speed, an observer would not see it approaching but would see two simultaneous images of it, appearing and departing in opposite directions. Scientists have not found any evidence for the existence of such particles. However, Verhoef manages to take a haunting photograph of the nonexistent.
Also in the Flowers series, a Verhoef photograph seems to pay homage to the still-life painting from the Dutch Golden Age. Verhoef, who is Dutch, pictures two glass vases. The smaller one in front holds a blue hyacinth and a stout vertical leaf. The other vase holds several flowers, including white freesias and a deep purple tulip. In between the two vases, a brown-tinged white rose has fallen on the counter. The withered rose could symbolize death, which is often represented in the 17th century paintings. The reflection of light and of the flowers on the glass vases is remarkable. Verhoef has the sensibility of a painter.
The photographer talks about “the cycle of life”:
On an early winter morning in my Portuguese garden, I saw something extraordinary.
It was four degrees below zero.
The wind and ice droplets in the air had worked together that night.
On a large tree trunk, ice crystals were formed in beautiful patterns.
Because the sun was rising already, the miracle should quickly disappear.
Just in time, I was able to read the language of the wind and the air in the ice. And a little bit became visible about who was visiting there.
In her series, Ice Patterns, each piece is unrecognizable as ice. Only after the viewer has been alerted to the subject is it clear. Otherwise, the photographs are flourishing waves
of grayish and bluish white, which are shaded expertly with light and shadow.
Verhoef also has a series called Flowers in Ice. The roses, tulips and other flowers do not seem real. One piece, Water-in-Fire, astounds the viewer. Water droplets are in the foreground, and columns of red stand tall behind them.
“There is just one chance to take the right photo,” she says.
“I have been following courses in the field of analog photography quite early. My photos are not edited afterwards. No Photoshop for me, just one chance to make the picture I have in mind. This is the creative and artistic challenge for me. There is only one chance to capture the perfect light, the intended aspect ratio, the proper contrast.”
This visual artist does not waste her chances.