Photographer Neil Dankoff has made it possible for Montrealers to do some amazing armchair travel at his showcase at the Kandy Gallery.
Even if you have trekked the deserts of Namibia, walked the waterfront of Italian villages and prayed at the Kotel, these photos make the experience fresh.
Entering the 5,500-square-foot space is like opening the lid of a cask of jewels. The gallery walls are lined with some 40 photographs up to 10 feet wide that seem to glow with an inner light.
The first thing viewers often do after taking in the breadth, depth and startling detail of the mural-size images is try to peer in back of the frames to see if they are lit from behind. Amazingly, they are not.
The effect is achieved simply with track lighting and reflectance paper sandwiched between Plexiglas and Dibond. However there is nothing simple about the photographs.
They defy the abilities of a “normal” camera, having been created with a medium-format digital camera that enables Dankoff to blow up images without losing detail.
Panoramic shots of breathtaking scope are made possible by the photographer’s ability to seamlessly “stitch together four to eight separate shots” of a single subject.
This melding is the only Photoshop manipulation. The rest is his superb eye for composition and the painstaking layering of multiple exposures of varying lengths that produces the intense colour.
The photographer has been passionate about his craft since he was growing up in Côte St. Luc and studying film and communications at McGill University. He moved to Toronto in 1998 and established Reaction Studio in 2002, a photography-video business.
Dankoff ventured into the artistic realm only 6-1/2 years ago when he had the urge to express himself beyond his commercial commissions.
“I knew I wanted to go big and do large, detailed pictures to make it feel as if you’re a part of the place,” he says.
Dankoff’s first photographic expedition was to Israel where he honed his technique of setting out at 4 a.m. to be on site at sunrise and again at sunset for the most dramatic light and cloud conditions.
Masada is one exception. The sun blares forth like a ball of holy fire illuminating the vista.
Ein Gedi’s waterfalls, rocks and desert and the extraterrestrial-like landscape of the Dead Sea also support the biblical connection our ancestors had with God. Of the single tree growing out of a rock in an image he calls Fortitude, he says, “it symbolizes Israel.”
The photographer researches prospective sites online.
“I’m looking for an attachment to a place, somewhere in which people will be interested. For example, in Toronto there’s a large South African community so I went to South Africa. I did a series for an exhibition at the Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto of heritage summer camps and their waterfronts in Muskoka. I try to bring something back like a piece of home or from a far-off place where it’s hard to go,” says the photographer who has also had his adventures on the job.
“Usually I have to be on solid ground to do my photography but in Hawaii the doors of a helicopter were removed and I was literally hanging out to take pictures of those cliffs.”
Dankoff mostly avoids including people in his landscapes but here, ant-like figures in the foreground show off the scale of these lush land buckles.
Dankoff and industrial realtors Derek and Kirsty Stern co-own the Kandy Gallery (the name inspired by the initials of Kirsty-Neil-Derek). Admirers of his talent, the Sterns have been accompanying the photographer on his expeditions and take their own hobby photos, some of which are also on show.
The exhibition will change as Dankoff continues his travels. Iceland and Thailand are next on his itinerary.