Mark Lamster’s “The Island That Nobody Knows” Photographs at Pinkcomma Exude Melancholy and Beauty

Nélida Nassar   10.12.2017

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When he was at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design as a Loeb Fellow, Mark Lamster, the architectural critic of The Dallas Morning News, documented Deer Island in Boston. His exhibition is entitled “The Island That Nobody Knows.” Lamster photographed what we may call the architecture of industrialization: a wastewater treatment plant with its facades and interior, and he did so in an obsessively formalist way that defined his style.

Deer Island is a peninsula in Boston, Massachusetts. Since 1996, it has been part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Although still an island by name, it has been connected to the mainland since the former Shirley Gut channel, which once separated the island from the town of Winthrop, was filled in by the 1938 New England hurricane. Over the years, Deer Island has had several different usage. In the 1670s, it became a place of internment for the American Indians, then a woman’s prison and a fortress against invasion by sea. Since 1955, it has been the site of the Deer Island Wastewater Management Plant, where about 350 million gallons of water are treated daily.

At pinkcomma gallery, Lamster presents 22 color photographs of which 3 are series of 2 images each alongside the selection of 16 single images. It makes for an intriguing exhibition with it a scientific and relentlessly detached vision especially in the looming, ominous series. Lamster approached the photographs as a totally artistic and architectural structure but rather in a detached way of looking. In a horizontal or vertical format the images have the same consistent size throughout and the presence of a visible or an underlying grid giving rigor to all them. As a master craftsman with his camera, his prints are superb examples of the amount of details and richness you can get out of his images.

Wandering through pinkcomma gallery, I was struck by the underlying sense of loss and melancholy that emanates from these photographs: you are looking at a lost world, however soul-destroying that world was for those who had to live and work in it. The images range from the toweringly impressive 150-foot-tall egg-like sludge digesters that are major harbor landmarks to the claustrophobic interiors of the plant. There is beauty here, too, and not least in the details: the concrete work and the repeated braces and the digesters are all forms which speak of the craft as well as the functionality of industrial design. This is a requiem for a lost world and shows that, through the passing of time, even that which was once considered purely functional and even ugly, can attain beauty when seen through the eyes of an attentive photographer.

pinkcomma gallery
46 Waltham Street, Courtyard One, Boston, MA 02118