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Karen Glaser: Aquascapes
by Wendy Watriss
Curator and Artistic Director, FotoFest

There is a magic about the world beneath the water that Karen Glaser brings to the surface. It doesn’t need the garish color and detailed sharpness that characterize so many underwater photographs. Karen takes us on a Homeric journey that takes us inside the turbid, teeming life beneath the surface of water and shows us its beauty.

When we learn that 90 percent of the population of large fish species in the oceans has been killed off by industrialized fishing in recent decades and 37 percent of freshwater fish in the U.S. are in danger of extinction, work like this becomes particularly important. It shows us the necessary inter-connectedness of different life forms. One of the unusual aspects of Karen’s work is how it reveals the relationship between what is above the surface and what lies below. In many of her images, there is a seamless transition from trees and shorelines to the aquatic environment below.

“Water covers more than 70 percent of the earth. Water is essential to life on earth. We are born in water and two-thirds of our bodies are water… Most of life on earth actually lives in water. We live on an ocean planet and we share it with many creatures… I see my photographs as creating a harmony between art, science, and the spirit,” Karen wrote recently about her work.

That harmony is a reflection of planetary existence and the multiplicity of life forms that make the earth what it is today. With Karen, it has been a lifelong project, from 1983. It is a struggle against what she calls the “unchallenged human capacity for destruction.” Creatures like the manatees of Florida are the only marine mammals other than whales that spend their life in the water. They are vegetarians, and they are indicator species of environmental destruction. Not long ago, they were an endangered species. Aquascapes reminds us of the importance of all life, even that which we don’t normally see.