On first viewing, Bert Call's photographs of Maine's natural and cultural landscape seem simple in their intention and accomplishment. Yet in many of his photographs (including those in this exhibit), Call's characteristic compositional style, his use of light and shadow to create a mood, his evident interest in photography as a formal medium, and his selection of symbolically charged subject-matter suggest that his intentions went far beyond social documentation to include the kind of complex multi-layered psychological projection that one more often associates with painters and sculptors.
A photograph always has a subject; it is always about something. So it is all too easy to overlook the presence of the artist-photographer behind the lens, especially when the photographer has made straight-forward unembellished images with historically relevant subject-matter. Yet beneath the documentary subject-matter of Call's work, it is the sensibility of the photographer that gives his images meaning and organization. The individual photographs provide entry into Call's inner world, his affections and his fears, as well as into the terrain where he lived and traveled. And, collectively, Call's photographic work creates a world of its own, with a specific conceptual geography of ideas and emotions.
The layering of meaning in these photographs is best revealed through a slow consideration of them. Viewers would do well to think about the implications of Call's portrayal of a natural and human landscape that was then (as it is now) in rapid transition. These photographs, through their great compositional strength, imply that life as a whole is a never-ending process of transformation, mirrored by the ongoing inner transformation found within the psyche of the photographer. If the natural world is seen as a transcendent source of health, it is also presented as vulnerable and, at times, as threatening. Within his complex artistic vision, Call expresses his deep respect for the landscape around him and his awareness of that landscape's (and his own life's) fragile beauty.
—Michael Alpert, Director, University of Maine Press, Orono, Maine 2009