Cheryl Pagurek: Capturing the State of Flux

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Canadian photographer Cheryl Pagurek illustrates the impacts of urbanization through her hyper-real photographs.

As anyone who has spent any time sitting next to a river can attest to, there are revelatory qualities present in the natural movement of water. The most obvious is the sound: whether it’s rushing or trickling, it’s always hypnotic and inspiring.

Equally as mesmerizing is what the surface of a river can do as it reflects the objects around it, particularly when you zoom in and disconnect a reflection from its source. Canadian visual artist Cheryl Pagurek has done just that with her recent photographic series, “State of Flux,” which Michael Davidge profiled in the latest issue of Canadian art magazine Black Flash (September-December 2013). As Davidge writes:

“Pagurek has been dealing with themes of change, the passage of time, and the impact of an increasingly urbanized environment on the natural world through the exploration of images of flowing rivers. Pagurek’s choice of water imagery is intended to fluidly dissolve boundaries between opposed elements, blurring distinctions between natural and built environments, between abstraction and representation, nature and culture, even between photography and painting.”

Pagurek’s process is simple: she takes close-up photos of moving water and doesn’t do any heavy digital manipulation to the images. The final photographs, though, when developed to their exhibition size of 20 x 30 inches and larger, are remarkably complex in their varied presentations of color, shape, and texture. The compositions that emerge are sometimes pleasant and peaceful; other times they’re jagged and somewhat unsettling. They’re all, however, poignant reminders of just how beautiful nature can be, as well as recognition that human development is distorting that native beauty. This point is made even clearer through Pagurek’s Wave Patterns, a video work that complements the photographs of “State of Flux,” and combines tranquil clips of moving water with the sounds of human progress:

For me, Pagurek’s work in both “State of Flux” and Wave Patterns is a visually-stunning and thought-provoking commentary on the fine line humanity walks between development and conservation. While the images in “State of Flux” clearly illustrate the visible impact we’re already making on the environment, the inspiring beauty that emerges from the visual representation of that impact suggests to me that a harmonious relationship is still possible.

Above image:  State of Flux 12 (2012); Ultrachrome digital print on photo paper (25 x 37 1/2 inches).

Christian Williams is the editor in chief of Utne Reader, and he also paints and makes music. View and listen to his work at

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