19th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest
About Joel Henner
It was the day after a storm and the cloud cover had just begun to break, allowing a few beams of sunlight to punctuate an otherwise dreary skyscape.
Joel Henner had set out for Paris's Science and Industry Museum (Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie) a few hours after dawn to photograph one of Paris's lesser-known architectural gems, a prismatic mirrored theater dome known as the Geode, in the ephemeral morning light. He was on a mission to capture the city as it had rarely been seen, taking a conscious departure from popular cultural landmarks like the Louvre and l'Arc d'Triomphe.
Circling around the massive orb, whose triangular facets reflected the lawn around it and the sky above in dazzlingly warped proportions, Henner shot from a variety of vantage points with a wide-angle lens. His winning photograph, "Sleeping," was one of the last shots of the morning, taken at around 10 a.m.
"My idea was to get the sky reflected in the mirrored surface of the dome," Henner said.
"I wanted to capture the surreal feel of it ... it's hard to describe it, but when you're there, it's kind of eye-popping."
Henner named the photograph after the figure in the foreground, a man dozing in a bare patch on the lawn. He liked the way the lone figure conveyed an air of peaceful simplicity against the dramatic backdrop that loomed before him.
In preparing the final photograph, Henner used a photo editing program to erase distractions and adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation, emphasizing the reflection on the dome and enhancing the overall mood of the photo.
"To me, it's almost like two worlds," Henner said. "There's the outside world, the guy on the lawn...and then there's this globe that reflects an almost crystal clear sky. It looked like an intersection of two very different kinds of environments -- one kind of prosaic and mundane and one almost heavenly."
-- Aimee Miles
Joel Henner's photograph, "Sleeping," offers us a puzzle. Why is that figure lying in an empty field? What is that giant, reflective globe? Was the scene we are viewing actually there, captured in a single take, or is it an imaginative reconstruction accomplished through software? The unexpected congruence of these elements invites us, as viewers, to provide our own answers. What makes Henner's photograph so compelling is that it offers no hints.
-- David Hibbard