Review: The Photography of Maura Z—An Ode to Gray

Over the past 20 years, with advances made in digital and phone cameras, many of us feel the best way to capture a scene is by taking a color photo. Most of us are led to believe that color photography not only provides better detail, but also helps capture the mood of a particular scene. But in the latest exhibition, Creation and Re-Creation in Shades of Gray at Everybody’s Coffee, Maura Z shows us how details as well as moods can better come to life in photography using various shades of gray.

This is Maura Z’s first solo exhibition and on display are 44 digital prints. All the images were captured with her digital camera and then later re-created through Photoshop where she stripped the photos to their barest poetic essence while also creating negative and positive space within her images.

Maura Z, Life Cycle
Maura Z, Life Cycle. Digital print. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Although there is a muted quality to her work, the viewer is easily drawn to her images due to her mastery in composition—she effectively balances the amount of detail and space as well as highlights and shadows. The details in her photos are in many ways more vivid due to the absence of color—perhaps because our brain isn’t processing or being distracted by colors, we are forced to see the stark details within each image. Maura’s use of grey tones creates an ambience that evokes various moods that bring to mind the quote by the French author, André Gide, who once said, “The color of truth is gray.”

A number of her works act as visual haikus that create meditative moments. A good example of this is Daily Reflection (Portofino, Italy), that shows a body of water shimmering against the reflection of the sun. The dark tones of the water add a sense of depth and mystery to this scene. Another work that fits this mode is Life Cycle where we see a dying water lily. In this shot we are reminded of the natural decay that exists within nature while also making us aware that we are all taking part in the cycle of life and death.

Maura Z, Grassburst,
Maura Z, Grassburst. Digital print. Photo courtesy of the artist.

There is also a whimsical aspect to her works, such as in Faeries’ Wings and Bubblies. When viewing these works, we cannot help but experience a sense of joy and a lightness of being. These works draw us into a state of mindfulness, inviting us to be in the present moment. These works not only allow us to appreciate the magic that exists within nature, but even more, to appreciate the subtle details that nature offers.

Maura’s works also express the majesty of various landscapes, such as in The Tree of Life, that shows a robust tree spreading its branches outward and upward toward the sky. And some of her images capture the raw energy of nature such as in Before the Deluge where we see foreboding clouds that gather before a storm or in Freshwater Collisions where we can feel the powerful movement of water.

Maura Z, Bubblies
Maura Z, Bubblies. Digital print. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Equally intriguing are a couple of her works that at first glance seem to be abstract without an immediate association with the physical world. She achieves this through her use of perspective, movement and light—transforming something ordinary into an unexpected and unrecognizable image.

“I want my work to remind people that they should stop and look around them and take the time to appreciate the beauty on this planet,” said Maura.  She also added, “Hopefully, someone’s perspective might change on how they see the world when looking at my work.”

What makes Maura Z’s work stand out is her unique combination of mechanical execution when taking a photo and her creative eye when re-creating photos through Photoshop. She also exhibits traits that other great photographers share such as having a sharp eye for detail, capturing a fleeting moment in time, and creating a mood that resonates within the viewer.

Creation and Re-Creation in Shades of Gray will be on display through January 5, 2023. Everybody’s Coffee is located at 935 W. Wilson. Hours: Monday thru Friday, 7am–2pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 8am–3pm. For more info, visit their website or call 773-303-6220.

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Tom Wawzenek
Tom Wawzenek
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