My time in Sri Lanka has revealed an entirely new world to me, a visual journey filled with moments of awe and wonder. My goal with this body of work is to invite the viewer to enter this world, to share those moments with me, and perhaps, through these images, also to discover something new about this place.
In stark contrast to the glossy commercial images of Sri Lanka that feed tourist fantasies of the exotic, these photographs find inspiration in ordinary moments and places. They reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary and bring out the overlooked beauty of the everyday, which for me has been the true wonder of Sri Lanka.
The majority of the photographs were taken at Galle Fort, which epitomizes the feeling of awe. In “Waiting” the view of the ocean is all encompassing, its solitude and expansiveness anchored by the historic stones. Looking out at the horizon one exits the world as it is today – the overflow of information, the technology, the noise – and enters the calm and quiet of the sea and the unknown that lies at its end. Visually these images reflect a dichotomy that creates a natural tension and balance. The vibrant colors of the natural elements – the blue sky, yellow sand and red rocks – contrast with the man-made walls protruding from the ground, their dull colors and overbearing mass slowly being taken over by nature.
I am fascinated by the simultaneous energy and stillness that marks environmental portraiture, and in my photos I seek to render the dynamic interaction between people and their material world. It is in these interactions that one may glimpse the distinct quality of both the person and the world they inhabit. In Sri Lanka that quality is often a deep sense of dignity. Photos like “Red Dress” reflect this quite literally, but even where the people are absent the objects that symbolize their life’s work or place in the world reflect it, as in the image “Fishing Boat”.
As in any medium, in photography inspiration comes from both inner imagination and the world outside. For me, the work of photographers Steve McCurry and Nan Goldin has been a profound source of such “outside” inspiration. Though they each have a very different artistic style, I draw from both of their unique perspectives. Steve McCurry’s ability to show the humanity, beauty and dignity of the most seemingly banal moments and ignored people is something I strive for in my own photography and has shaped my choice of context and subject matter, including in the photos presented here. On the other hand, Nan Goldin’s seemingly snapshot street-style photos, which at first glance appear to be casual and obvious but in fact beg one to pause and recognize the deeper message being conveyed, has inspired me to rethink the relationship between image and viewer and to understand fine art photography as more than simply a personal vision. It is a way of representing the world that asks the viewer to engage with it from a different perspective and to see something new, as I hope these images of Sri Lanka do.
Daniel Valentin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in photography from William Paterson University in New Jersey, United States. He has been granted a Tiffany Scholarship for his artistic work and has been featured in Artery Magazine, the university art journal. Daniel was selected by world-renowned fine art photographer Ernestine Ruben to participate in an exclusive art workshop at Peter’s Valley, New Jersey, and most recently he has received honorable mention in the 2012 International Photography Awards competition sponsored by the Lucie Foundation.