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Art & Soul: Abstract slices of life


Rachel M. Raab got her first camera at age 14 and began snapping photos at summer camp.

Today, she enjoys taking quirky….

Art & Soul: Abstract slices of life

Rachel M. Raab got her first camera at age 14 and began snapping photos at summer camp.

Today, she enjoys taking quirky, gleefully-distorted photographs using a variety of processes, from traditional silver gelatin prints to high-tech, Photoshop-manipulated giclee works.

“RAABstract Random,” a solo exhibit on display at the JEA Art Gallery through the end of the month, showcases Raab’s color and black and white photography created since 2000. The early work reveals her experiments with digitally manipulating color and perspective to create surrealist, almost supernatural landcapes that are both familiar and alien.

Some of the most intriguing work on display in “RAABstract Random” has been shot with a plastic Lomo Fisheye camera, a decidedly low-tech piece of equipment with a built-in wide-angle lens. The result is a series of absurdist portraits of friends, family, pets and parties that offers a giddy perspective on the world at large.

“It’s a camera I can bring everywhere and not worry about ruining my equipment,” Raab explained. “I still enjoy shooting with film, but I mostly shoot digital.”

The exhibit at the JEA also features massive 30x40 color photographs snapped while riding atop a camel in Jordan or gazing into the blue water of the Bahamas. Her travel photography offers glimpses into the ruins of ancient Petra, the inspired art deco architecture of Miami Beach and the cocktail-fueled nightlife scene in Savannah.

Raab encourages the viewer to see Savannah from a different perspective than the one provided by traditional tourist brochures and visitor guides. Her large-format photograph of the Talmadge Bridge, viewed from ground level beneath the towering span, has been strategically manipulated to make the structure appear to twist, writhe and ripple beneath a violet sky, as if it were made of rubber rather than concrete.

She also focuses her lens on her friends’ pierced faces and tattooed arms, emphasizing the tribal connection between these youthful figures sprawled in the back seat of a car, decked out in ambitious Halloween costumes or mugging for the camera at a local bar.

“I’m a very visual person,” she said. “I do everything myself, from shooting to framing.”

Ultimately, “RAABstract Random” offers insight into the way a young, talented photographer, who is still defining her style and developing her aesthetic, sees the world. Some of her compositions, like “Jade,” succeed technically, focusing on a pit bull with a Joker-like smile and a curled pink tongue flapping with anticipation as she eagerly eyes a tennis ball in an outstretched hand. Too many others, however, come across as art school portfolio outtakes. In either case, Raab displays a keen eye for the absurd and a wincing sense of humor.

“I hope people will see new places and new things in my work,” she said. “I like seeing people’s sense of surprise. I look for stuff that’s appealing to the eye and makes people say ‘wow.’ “


What: “RAABstract Random,” photography by Rachel M. Raab

When: Through Aug. 31

Where: JEA Art Gallery, 5111 Abercorn St.

Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

For information: 355-8111


Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Rachel M. Raab moved to Orlando at the age of 9. After studying photography at a community college in Daytona Beach, Fla., she earned a scholarship to attend SCAD and moved to Savannah in 2006. She has since exhibited her work at a variety of local alt-art venues, from Black Orchid Gallery to Hang Fire. This 24-year-old photographer, who is currently completing a B.F.A. at the Savannah College of Art and Design, says she hopes to own her own gallery one day.