dirk hr spennemann photography



Tantalizing & Troubling Visions

Images of Saipan and Tinian 2009

As the first decade of the twenty-first century soon draws to a close, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) plays many roles: a bastion of Chamorro and Carolinian pride; a tourist destination for holidaymakers from Japan, China and Korea; a gateway between Asia and Micronesia; a heaven of aspirations of many seeking a stepping stone to the mainland USA; and America's westernmost outpost in the Pacific.

Not surprisingly, twenty-first century CNMI is a complex community. The land is firmly in the hands of the traditional owners of the islands. Both Chamorros and Carolinians maintain a strong identity and cultural self-respect. Yet the streetscapes, stores and public places reflect a multi-cultural community with Bangladeshi, Chinese, Chuukese, European, Korean, Palauan, Philippino and Russian elements intermingling.

The images in the exhibition show people and places in today's CNMI. All images were taken within a one-week time frame in September 2009, representing a snapshot in time. Creative visions are meant to be selective, gently challenging the perceptions of an audience. The artist's eye picked out the familiar with the unfamiliar, choosing to juxtapose the expected with the unexpected.

The images have a gritty feel to them, transcending reality with their treatment. On the one hand, creating a realism that is confronting, on the other creating an artistic, and comforting, distance to the reality as seen by most.

"Tantalizing & Troubling Visions" is the first exhibition of its kind shown by the CNMI Museum for History and Culture. In the context of the museum's current exhibits, which highlight the transition of life through the various periods of Mariana's history, this photographic exhibition brings the viewer full circle, providing a condensed view of where we are at right now.

About the technique:
The acronym of the exhibition is also a word play on the photographic technique used by the artist: through-the-viewfinder photography. Using a modern Nikon digital camera with a powerful macro lens, Dirk photographs the image produced by the viewfinder of a vintage camera, a French Olbia Eikon made in 1946. The bi-convex glass of the viewfinder allows for selective focus drop-off that cannot be emulated with standard cameras or by digital manipulation. Digital darkroom techniques are then used to post-process the captured images.


CNMI Museum for History and Culture

Garapan, Saipan CNMI

(7 October - 18 December 2009)