U.S. PHOTOGRAPHER Gary Kwiatek’s work juxtaposes images from around the world – churches in Cartago, the EiffelTower in Paris, geese in Freemont, Calif. and even platform shoes in Tokyo. And now his exhibit “Reflections in an Ageless Eye” is on display at Floralvarado Gallery in Curridabat, east of San José.
Bringing traditional photography into the modern age, Kwiatek uses computer software to distort and filter his photos to transform them into art pieces. Through cross hatching, pixelation and other modern techniques, his pieces possess a surreal quality about them.
At a distance, many of the pictures appear as if they could be paintings. Kwiatek, 48, plays with color, keeping the majority of his work very natural while altering or bringing out vibrant tones in selected shots. A strong sense of balance and space draw the observer into the photos.
“The images I share are my humble attempt to teach your eyes to see again, or perhaps for the first time,” Kwiatek wrote in his mission statement.
FOLLOWING that mission, one of the more striking shots is of a girl in a park in Japan entitled “It’s All in the Eyes.” From underneath a red burka, two heavily made-up eyes peer out. The picture seems to capture and return the viewer’s stare.
Another outstanding shot, taken in Costa Rica, captures a butterfly display. The vibrant colors of the butterflies against the background’s bright white turn something that would otherwise appear harsh and mundane into something eye-catching and attractive.
Other shots capture the subject in a different way, such as a series of reflections from Las Vegas.
“It’s whatever I see that strikes my interest,” said Kwiatek, explaining the diversity. “It’s also about catching the right moment.”
On viewing the exhibit, one will likely notice another series, of women’s shoes. While in Japan, Kwiatek was struck by the large, seemingly out-of place platform shoes that appeared to be everywhere.
“It was just something so out of your realm of reality,” Kwiatek said. “I had to photograph it.”
AFTER all, his goal is to “introduce people to things they haven’t seen before.” In his effort to do that, Kwiatek moved to Costa Rica a month ago, bringing his work with him.
“I wanted to expose a different culture to things they haven’t seen,” he said. “I think that gave me more courage to put my work out there.”
GETTING up the courage to put his work on display is something that he’s still getting used to.
His career in photography really only began a few years ago. For more 20 years, Kwiatek was a singer living in Orlando, Fla. And working at Walt Disney World.
In 2001, he left his performing job to embark on his photography career.
“Life is cyclical,” he said. “You can tell when you’re at the end of a story and it’s time to make changes.”
Of course, he jokes, it could have simply been a mid-life crisis.
WHATEVER it was, he started studying photography after moving back to California, where he grew up.
There, he began taking pictures and built a collection of work.
While displaying his work during classes, Kwiatek found people responding favorably to his photos, which encouraged him to enter the field professionally. Now, he says, photography is his life.
“I see the world in pictures,” he said. “When I was a singer everything was song; can’t go anywhere or see anything without thinking of the balance and seeing the composition.”
THAT idea goes both ways, since he sees the world as photography and describes his work as “how he sees the world.”
“I try to present people another way of seeing something or of seeing something they may have overlooked,” Kwiatek said.
“Some people might love my work and others might hate it,” he said. “That’s okay. As long as you take something from it, that’s all that matters.”
“REFLECTIONS in an Ageless Eye” will be on exhibit through the end of April at the Floralvarado Gallery located on the west side of the plaza in Curridabat.
Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon and 2-6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more info, call 280-4568.