Gil Mares

Hull Series

For the past two decades I have photographed details of Spanish colonial and adobe structures throughout the American Southwest and Latin America. I tend to concentrate on the simple yet elegant details that make each of these buildings unique. Over the years my style has evolved into a “distilling process” that concentrates on what is in plain view and attempts to pull out the essence of the subject. I recently began to use this process to photograph cargo freighters in the Los Angeles Harbor.

While searching for images in the harbor, I was drawn to the worn hulls of the ships that dock there. These ships seem as great whales with battle scars which record their life-long struggle to survive. The ships at dock can be seen every day. However, the visual secrets of the ships are generally not known because of the distance between the ships and the observer. I have concentrated on eliminating this distance to reveal their beauty.

The brightly painted hulls exhibit interesting patterns and textures which are reflected in the water. The hulls may appear delicate, tenuous, even transparent. However, the scrapes, gouges, rubber marks, and rusting wounds, sometimes from the ships’ own anchors, sometimes from the ubiquitous tires found on the sides of docks and tugboats, belie this frailty. At times a series of numbers or cryptic diagrams may appear on the massive hulls. These messages communicate only to those who assist in ferrying the ships in and out of the world’s ports.

In developing this “distilling process” I have been influenced by artists of the 20th century. The differing planes of analytical cubism come to mind when viewing some of the photographs. Many other photographs may be reminiscent of the bold and powerful paintings of the abstract expressionists of the 1950’s and 1960’s. I try to use composition, color, texture, depth, and detail to illuminate the subject, to remove all other distractions, and invite contemplation.