ABOVE - A detail of "The Crystal Gate" installation in the Atlantis Resort, Nassau, The Bahamas. Dale Chihuly is a blown glass designer/sculptor whose works are considered unique to the field of blown glass, "moving it into the realm of large-scale sculpture". His works are legendary in the realm of art glass and he is considered a modern master through his mixing of traditional glass blowing techniques (learned in Venice Italy) and new techniques he’s developed to create works of mind-blowing intricacy and scale. Since a serious car accident in 1976 left him blinded in one eye and a body surfing accident in 1979 left him unable to hold the glass blowing pipe. He has since hired others to do the manual labor in bringing his designs to life. He calls himself “more of a choreographer than a dancer… more of a supervisor than a participant… more a director than an actor.” His large installations are on display in permanent collections all over the world, including in the United States, Canada, England, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Nassau, the Bahamas at the Atlantis Resort.
ABOVE - A detail of "The Crystal Gate" installation in the Atlantis Resort, Nassau, The Bahamas. The challenges in shooting such amazing works of art are many: SCALE - These massive installations are so large and complex that to capture the truly amazing detail and unique beauty of each you really need to shoot close-up images. The scale is then lost. But to shoot wide to establish each work in the environment they were places (designed for), you loose the finer details that make these works so awe inspiring. I knew when I was booked to shoot a corporate event in the Atlantis that the four large Chihuly installations were top of my list for my own "must shoot" items for the trip. I'd seen wide photo after wide photo and once on site and standing in amazement at their complexity and detail I decided to shoot long and tight - opting to not focus on scale so much as detail but knowing that certain angles would convey the size of their settings and therefore express their monumental size. LOCATION - These works of art are the show pieces of the busiest part of the resort, the casino. There isn't a time day or night that these works of art are not surrounded by people. Having the time to set up a shot and take it would be difficult. LOCATION - Because photography in the casino proper is not allowed, I was limited to the angles I could select. This meant going for my 300mm f/2.8 lens - large, heavy, and in need of some sort of support (i.e. tripod or monopod). It wasn't going to be possible to stop in a busy walkway and set up a tripod - so I decided to experiment with hand-held shots. LOCATION - Again, because of the location I couldn't increase shutter speed with the use of a speedlight. Flash photography was strictly prohibited inside the resort. The areas these installations occupied were dimly lit, which worked to the advantage of their display (since they are all internally lit), but with large lenses you have the hand-held rule of photography - if you don't want blur from the lens shaking you must shoot the second equivalent of the total focal length of the lens. Meaning I had to shoot at 1/350 second or higher to keep from having shake/blur in the images from holding that massive lens hand-held. I adjusted ISO to compensate and I used anything I could to steady my body/arms as I hoisted 12lbs of camera and lens up to get my shots.
ABOVE -At the main entrance of the Atlantis Casino, "The Crystal Gate" installation stands 18 feet tall. Made of individual crystal glass shafts (3,100 to be exact), it is an amazing work of beauty as well as being a feat of design and engineering. Weighing over 30,000 pounds, it simply is an astoundingly beautiful and complex sculpture. Chihuly Atlantis Exhibits – Dale Chihuly was commissioned by the owner and builder of The Atlantis to make four grand statement works for the casino. Each is insured for over a million US dollars, they are all uniquely individual yet collectively appropriate for the design and theme of the Atlantis's main casino.
The Crystal Gate - The Crystal Gate is a glittering tower of crystal soaring nearly 20 feet into the air at the entrance to the Atlantis Casino weighing 30,000 pounds and is made of 3,100 hand-blown crystals. It is the grand statement piece as you enter the casino – a marvel of crystal shapes and forms. It was by far my favorite piece, the pure scale and ambition of it spoke to me. I took dozens of photos of it and each angle reveals a new character and symmetry.
ABOVE - The Temple of the Moon rests atop a large elevated platform. It sits opposite the casino from The Temple of the Sun. Between the two in the center of the room, suspended from the ceiling, is the Seaform Chandelier. Temple of the Moon & The Temple of the Sun - The challenge was to bring beauty to paradise -- and the Sun and Moon. Chihuly was commissioned to make dazzling yet approachable sculpture for the new Atlantis Resort Hotel on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. SPECIAL NOTE - Having the ability to step OUTSIDE the casino and shoot a photo such as the one above is one of the many reasons why I will ALWAYS travel with a super-telephoto lens. Having a 300, 400, 500, or 600mm lens available makes shots like the one above a reality.
ABOVE - The Temple of the Moon – Each of the surface "plates" of the Temple of the Moon in itself is an amazing work of art. Cobalt blue mixes with silverish white and translucent blues to create a soothing and symmetrical opposite to the Temple of the Sun across the casino. “I knew I could create the sun very successfully, but the moon would have to somehow be blown and constructed in an entirely original way. I knew it would be difficult and force me to make something new.” ~ Dale Chihuly Beautifully rendered relief paintings of the twelve signs of the zodiac circle the Sun and Moon installations. BELOW - The dynamic and explosive colors and design of the Temple of the Sun are indeed a striking contrast to the relaxing and calming coolness of the Temple of the Moon.
Temple of the Sun – The Temple of the Sun is a giant ball of flame-like tentacles of yellow, orange, and red elements radiating from its globe. It resembles a fearsome underwater creature of beauty and mystery while at the same time it could also easily be said that it is a representation of the violence and danger that reaches out from the center of every star into space.
The Temple of the Sun has more than 2,300 yellow, orange, and red elements radiating from a fiery globe atop a replica of a Mayan temple.
AND THEN THERE WAS THE SEA - BELOW - In the center of the room, caught between the two extremes of the sun and moon rests the Seaform Chandelier.
The Seaform Chandelier – Featuring 900 unique hand blown elements depicting a wide assortment of ocean life in abstract form; this stunning 12ft diameter glass sculpture is located in the center of the Bacarat Lounge within sight of the two massive “Temple” sculptures. It features a number of instantly recognizable ocean shapes such starfish and then flows into shapes reminiscent of dolphins and other aquatic life. It is also an interesting "buffer" between the two extremes of the Temples. There are hints of gold and reds found in the Temple of the Sun, and cooler whites and bluish grey found in the Temple of the Moon.
BELOW - In and around the casino are numerous smaller Chihuly works known as Macchia Bowls.
Macchia Bowls - Derived from the Latin macula, the Italian word “macchia” connotes simply a stain or a spot, but it has a much richer range of meaning. Since the Renaissance, macchia has been associated with a sketchy way of applying the initial color to a drawing or painting. Particularly appropriate for the late style of the Venetian painter Titian, the word characterizes his emphasis on brushwork and summary treatment of form. In the seventeenth century, macchia designated the special quality of improvisational sketches that appear to be nature’s miraculous creation rather than mere human work. When Chihuly appropriates the term “Macchia” for his series, he gives back to the word some of its traditional meanings, particularly the emphasis on spontaneity, on artistic collaboration with technique rather than mere control of it.
There is an undeniable sense of continuity and purpose to the master works on display at the Atlantis. Each piece although completely unique in design, shape, and color, flows into the next as a collective series should. Each alone is breathtaking and awe inspiring; but together they are an experience.
The Atlantis is a destination without question, but the entire island of Nassau offers a unique treasure of culture and history that should not be missed if you ever have the chance to visit. For me, the chance to experience these beautiful installations in person and then be challenged in attempting to capture their beautify in photographs was one of the many highlights of my trip.
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