Photographer Carlos L. Esguerra illuminates the “unseen” at Manhattan’s iconic museum by Tina Seligman

Navigating the hallways and stairwells of New York’s Museum of Modern Art to view the next gallery of exhibited artwork, most visitors, including myself, swiftly move through without ever noticing the transitory beauty of lights, shadows, shapes, reflections, and colors that dance along the architectural elements. Photographer, Carlos L. Esguerra transforms those practically unseen moments into Shadows of MoMA, a Zen-like series of abstracted images that create substance from the intangible.
While many visitors snap images of the displayed works, Esguerra is drawn to what seem like empty areas. “It is not uncommon to see the guards looking suspiciously at my camera baffled by what I was trying to photograph, because I was ignoring the actual art work itself.” Whether projected from sculptures, mobiles, a passer-by, sun streaming through a window, or from artificial track lights, Esguerra is unaware of the source. Completely focused on the visual effect of the shadows and lines of light as they appear in his viewfinder, his process then continues in the computer. Although he does not create composites, many of his images use reflection to create the illusion of it. Within one single image, Esguerra masterfully adjusts digital variables such as exposure, contrast, hue, and value to heighten and delineate the shapes. In this series, his colors often glow with neon intensity. The effect can be surreal and disorienting as the image oscillates between pure non-objective color fields, and physical space. Frequently ambiguous, the shadows and reflections could be on walls, floor, ceiling, glass, or a combination. Various groupings emerge, including a subseries of multiple colorful shadows created by people interacting with light installations by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. This is one of the rare instances when Esguerra includes the human form, which here becomes another shape in movement, rather than a portrait. Printed on 11 by 17-inch archival fine art paper in editions of 50, the images will also available in his upcoming book about this series. Extending this concept to other art-related institutions, Esguerra has been photographing Shadows of Christies, Shadows of The Metropolitan Museum, and of several European museums, including Belgium’s Leuven M Museum.
Esguerra’s background as a programmer analyst for IBM Corporation, and then as founder and president of CLÉ Systèmes made the transition between film and digital photography easier for him than for many photographers. Retired from business, he currently devotes his life full time to his passion for photography. His ever-growing travel wish list for future projects includes Iceland, Bilbao, Budapest, Cambodia, Nepal, Tibet, and India, in search of the distinctive colors and light of each location, such as Mykonos and Santorini with their whitewashed buildings against a Mediterranean blue sky. And to revisit the landscape and architecture of China, which has transformed since his three weeks there in 2001. Exhibited both nationally and internationally, Esguerra’s work is continuously on the move, including exhibitions in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Sweden. Sponsored by Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB) and the Philippine Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands, Esguerra’s solo exhibit “Contemplative Landscape” will be on view this summer in Amstelveen, Holland from June 6 through July 26. From August through September, Esguerra’s tribute to the two Spanish “Modernista” architects, Antonio Gaudi and Santiago Calatrava, will be exhibited in Manila, Philippines. In addition to receiving numerous international photography awards, his work has also been published in many periodicals including Photo Life Magazine, Toronto, Canada; Interior Design Magazine, NYC, Hasselblad Forum Magazine; and Popular Photography & Imaging. Regardless of subject, Carlos Esguerra elegantly illuminates the elusive. Carlos Esguerra’s distinctive eye for clean lines, shapes, and light inspired by Zen Buddhist principles, and his “painterly” approach to photography are echoed in his ongoing landscape and architectural photographs, which take him throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, the United States, and back to his place of birth, the Philippines. Currently living in New York, his passion for exploring other cultures, climates, and vistas has led to series ranging from traditional landscapes of the Canadian Rockies, California’s Death Valley dunes, and the Netherlands, to more abstract and surreal images of those and other rural ‘scapes, many of which can be seen in his recently published book, God Made. Pushing the panoramic proportions, occasionally he elongates the image by cropping out excess sky or foreground. He is now working on a related book, Man Made, with photography of both ancient and contemporary architecture. In his visual essays, Esguerra brings out the striking shapes that distinguish nature from architecture, while simultaneously revealing how natural shapes have influenced these structures. The shadows series and other abstractions created from windowpane refractions, distortions, and light play exist in between as conversations among nature, light, time, movement, and man-made forms.

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