Headlands Center for the Arts

Cris Benton

california | visual
Affiliate Program 2015—2016

Artist Statement

I have long been fascinated by photography’s capacity to reveal phenomena denied to our native senses. In this light my work involves viewing the familiar from vantage points we cannot readily occupy. This is accomplished by using kite-lofted cameras to take aerial photographs from heights of 10 to 300 feet. I build robotic cradles to aim and control the cameras, sew kites to serve as steady lifters, and then explore my surroundings using the gear. The process involves entertaining negotiations between technical prowess and the vagaries of nature.

What began as play with kites has evolved into a sustained form of landscape study. For ten years I have photographed and researched the transitional landscape of South San Francisco Bay—a place that combines visual intrigue with a fascinating backstory. More recently I have turned my attention to the headlands surrounding the Golden Gate Straight and the harbor defenses that shaped their development (or lack thereof.)

While At Headlands

Within a two-mile radius of Ft. Barry, I will wander, explore, and photograph. Taking aerial photographs at the intimate scale afforded by kites while simultaneously occupying the landscape being photographed is a remarkably powerful way to learn about a place. Photographs from early speculative sessions invariably present questions, unimagined from the ground, related to a place’s natural and cultural history. The questions prompt research—libraries, conversations, map rooms, seeking out the knowledgeable – and then a return to the field to photograph with a heightened appreciation for what lies below. It is an iterative process in which time in place is a key requisite.

Stunning as a natural setting, the headlands offer a community prone to inquiry and a landscape rich with traces of previous occupation. Former keepers of sheep, lighthouses, lifeboats, artillery, minefields, missiles, and parkland have left their marks on the landscape—some distinct, some ephemeral. From these will spring a narrative.

Selected Works

Personal Website

http://kapcris.com/coastaldefenses/