Photographer Bret Webster’s images building international bridges
Park City Gallery Association will host its monthly Last Friday Gallery Stroll from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, May 25. The public can visit local galleries and see new works and talk with artists. For information and participating artists, visit www.parkcitygalleryassociation.com.
Fine art photographer Bret Webster is building cultural and diplomatic bridges with his art.
Five years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait asked the owner of Bret Webster Images Gallery, which is set to be one of the Park City Gallery Association galleries open during Friday’s gallery stroll, for his Horseshoe Canyon photograph titled “Ghost Panel Night.”
Last year, representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Malta asked Webster for two photographs of Moab — “Arches Symmetry” and “The Great Gallery.” And it asked for another work this year.
Requests from other embassies keep coming, Webster said.
“Two pieces will be going into the U.S. embassy and to NATO headquarters in Brussels,” he said. “I’m told that I’ll never be able to visit where they are going to be shown because the place is so secure.”
A few days ago, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia asked about acquiring a work.
“It’s an honor that my art is asked to support diplomacy in the world,” Webster said.
Fans of Webster’s images know he doesn’t just photograph sandstone arches, ancient pictographs and starry nights. He takes photographs of whatever catches his eye.
“When I look at something, I’m always thinking of the story the image would want to capture and convey,” he said.
Webster says finding the perfect composition is like going on a treasure hunt.
“The desire to share these treasures is why I have a gallery,” he said.
Bret Webster Images, located at 312 Main St., opened in 2012, after the photographer, who was once a chemical engineer, paid his artistic dues in art shows and other photography exhibits.
“It’s easy to be enamored with your own work and think the rest of the world will be, too,” he said, laughing. “And it’s easy to be wrong on that account.”
Still, Webster didn’t give up on his dream.
“You learn over time how to refine your presentation and things like that,” he said. “It’s a worthwhile endeavor, and the more you put your heart and mind into it, the photos get better.”
A few years ago, Webster utilized his scientific perception to photograph macro views of colored water droplets and snowflakes.
This year, his new close-up project is photographs of bismuth.
“Bismuth is an element, a fairly heavy metal that is close to antimony and lead on the periodic table,” Webster said. “It’s fun to look at because of the coloring and shades.”
There are various shapes that come together in each unaltered photograph that depicts textures highlighted gold, blue, red, yellow and orange.
“Some shapes remind me of pyramids, semiconductors and pipe organs,” he said. “Others look like ice cubes and a grand Egyptian ceiling.”
Webster photographed a 7-inch sample of the metal, and used an array of lights to reflect a balance of color and contrast.
“Nature does a lot of beautiful things,” he said.
Webster also had fun giving the images titles.
“I have ‘Taking Care of Bismuth’ and ‘Bismuth Before Pleasure,’” he said gleefully. “We sold quite a few before we put them up in the gallery.”
While the bismuth shows nature’s beauty, Webster is also fond of taking photographs of manmade beauty as depicted in a series taken at a bridge in rural England, south of London.
“This bridge is a viaduct, not an aquaduct, and it’s an old bridge,” Webster said. “It’s not Roman old, but built in the 1840s in the countryside on this tiny road.”
The bridge is made of 11 million bricks that are different shades of red, black and gray.
“I knew there were some interesting bridges with interesting perspectives, and I found this one while traipsing around,” Webster said. “I just stumbled upon it and spent a lot of time there, about three weeks, with no schedule.”
The lack of an itinerary is important when Webster is creating photographs.
“I need to stay in a place for a while to get to know it before it starts to give its secrets to me,” he said. “Otherwise I feel like I’m on vacation and just being a tourist. It’s a lot more fun to hang out.”
The bridge photos, one of which is called “Time Tunnel,” were shot from the perspective of the holes that run through the supports.
“It was something to look down through that,” Webster said. “There was the color, the aging and you could see the repair work.”
The photographer created vertical and circular formats of that perspective, and the photographer said viewers have compared it to science fiction.
“People who have seen the circular work have told me it’s like a personal Stargate or portal to the Multiverse,” Webster said. “It’s a unique image and the circle is a unique presentation, because photographs are usually rectangles. So it’s fun to have a circular photo.”
These images, like all of Webster’s photographs, are unmanipulated.
“We have so many people wondering what they are looking at because it looks like an illusion,” he said.
On the same trip to England, Webster ventured west across the Celtic Sea to Ireland and got some images of the rocky islands off the coast of the Emerald Isle.
“I wasn’t prepared to see the magnificent beauty of Ireland,” he said. “I always thought it was just green rolling hills with sheep, but it has this big, tectonic-sized, ‘Game of Thrones’ type of beauty.”
Closer to home, literally in his backyard, Webster captured another natural image — a moose in Park City during the Super Moon rise in January.
The image is titled “Moonlight Moose,” and it’s more of a silhouette than a portrait, Webster said.
“I went to take a look at the silver moon, and there she was, so I talked with her while I was taking the photo so she wouldn’t get upset with me,” he said. “I don’t usually specialize in wildlife (photography), but if they jump in front of me, I’ll take their picture.”
These are some of the new images Webster wants to share with Park City.
“There is something magical about this town and the relationships you develop over time,” he said. “The people are enjoyable to know, and to feel part of something like this is something wonderful.”
Webster also hopes his art in the U.S. embassies will help bridge gaps between countries worldwide.
“We’re all so much alike, but we look at what’s different and get all tribal,” he said. “If we can measure and add up all the things that we’re made of, it’s all the same. Maybe we’ll realize that. I hope so.”
Blue Moon Ranch alpacas will welcome spring and visitors during an open bar day on Saturday.