Birgit Freybe Bateman brings the world to Brackendale 

Who: Birgit Freybe Bateman

What: Through These Eyes Photo Exhibit

Where: Brackendale Art Gallery

When: Concurrent with Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival

The cozy upstairs space at the Brackendale Art Gallery doesn’t exactly suit the grandiose, but Birgit Freybe Bateman’s Through These Eyes photography exhibit still manages to bring in all corners of the globe.

Through These Eyes is an abridged version of an 80-piece show Freybe Bateman premiered and re-exhibited at the ArtSpring Gallery in her home community on Saltspring Island last year. The Brackendale exhibit features vibrant Asian crowds, fleeting glimpses of jungle wildlife, stark Irish real estate, and sun-drenched Mediterranean plazas, all images captured during her extensive travels.

She’s the first to admit she leads a charmed life, touring the world with husband Robert Bateman, the internationally renowned wildlife artist, a Canon EOS 1 always within reach.

Her work has appeared in publications such as Outside, Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic Adventure. Her fourth trip to the literal end of the earth – Antarctica – last year resulted in a National Geographic book collaboration with author Peter Matthiessen, Ends of the Earth: Trips to Antarctica, which was released last October.

But as Through These Eyes shows, the more Freybe Bateman experiences the world, the smaller it becomes. Her photos exude intimacy. Forgotten subjects such as a puddle on the ground or sunbeams on ancient bricks are elevated by her unique sense of composition. At the same time the adjacent wildlife shots become even more striking in their simplicity.

"I do think we miss so much," says the effervescent photographer from her home by the sea. "Being in these places, it’s almost a sense of duty I feel to soak up as much as I can, see every aspect of it. And it may be down on the ground as you’re walking."

As for her live subjects such as the stunning Thai tiger cub captured on slide film while she perched atop an elephant, she concurs that wildlife shots seem to command greater respect when exhibited amidst a more eclectic display.

"There’s so much beautiful wildlife photography in the world, you almost get jaded when you see it," she says. "I noticed it myself when I went into a show of wildflowers. I, who love wildflowers and love photography, found myself fairly superficial as I went through. I thought, ‘gee, if I do that, what are other people going to do?’ So I had to give it more of something that makes you look twice."

Now in her mid-50s, Freybe Bateman is completely enamoured by the process of capturing photos, an activity she picked up at 16 as a means of inspiring ideas for fibre art projects. It wasn’t long, she says, before she recognized photography as its own complete art process, and so began the love affair.

"I tried to put the camera down once," she confesses, recalling another one of countless journeys to the far corners of Asia. "For me, for my personality, that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. I became so lackadaisical. I just didn’t have a focus.

"When looking through a viewfinder I am able to instantly verbalize what happens. I’m instantly making a composition, the first stage of a piece of art. By shifting the viewfinder a quarter inch to the right, you completely change the composition, or the idea, or the feeling, or the colour.

"I even start salivating when I talk about it!" she exclaims suddenly, before admitting she’s actually composing as she speaks, framing a gull against the ocean from the window of her house on Saltspring.

"It’s just the trees and the water and I’ve got my hand in a little viewfinder shape," she enthuses, "just moving it about, making little images.

"Looking through the viewfinder you’re doing art, each moment. You don’t even have to click the shutter."

She sighs. "That’s the beauty of it. It’s the scene that’s so creative."

Birgit Freybe Bateman’s Through These Eyes photography exhibit will be on display upstairs at the Brackendale Art Gallery throughout the 18 th Annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival, until Feb. 7.

For more information call 604-898-3333.

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