The relationship between photography and national parks is a long, varied and often fruitful one.
Among other examples, it dates to the era 150 years ago when Carleton Watkins’ dazzling pictures inspired Congress and President Lincoln to federally preserve the untrammeled area around Yosemite Valley.
Jasmine Swope adds a distinctive poetic twist to this well traveled territory. The photographs are being shown at Craig Krull Gallery with loosely related paintings of tidal pools by Connie Jenkins and gridded seashore collages by Matthew Chase-Daniel.
Swope shows lush, black-and-white palladium prints of California’s network of 124 Marine Protected Areas. Stretching from Oregon to Mexico, these underwater preserves are among more than 1,600 federally designated areas in coastal oceans, intertidal zones and the Great Lakes.
Swope’s photographs have the soft look of richly worked, large-scale graphite drawings. In addition to her chosen printing technique, it is achieved through lengthy exposures that blur contours, enhance atmospherics and blend the motions of waves and birds into gentle near-abstractions.
One result is to recast familiar sights, recorded in millions of snapshots of tourist scenery, into something alien and almost extraterrestrial. Rocky outcroppings rising above foggy gray swirls of luminosity might be on some far-off mountaintop or even on a Hollywood backlot. They’re like mysterious landscapes glimpsed on another planet.
That they’re actually close to home makes the visual estrangement salutary. Swope’s camera can only show the world’s surface; however lovely the outward appearance might be, the complex but largely hidden dynamic of a habitat is what matters. Her photographs deftly evoke the presence of more than the eye can see.
Craig Krull Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-6410, through May 23. www.craigkrullgallery.com