What the eye can't see

Self-taught photographer Robert B. Schaal leaned against his walking cane and passionately surveyed his photographs displayed at the Arizona Western College Art Gallery.

“It's perfect,” he said.

 Invisible Beauty: Microphotography, Evaporating Water and Other Things, on exhibit from Oct. 17 to Nov. 11, showcased three-dimensional photographs, captured with a microscope, of various household materials.

The photographs are filled with vibrant colors that create a dynamic illusion through strange, crystalloid images. The colors in all the pictures come from filters that Schaal creates himself. This technique is called “light painting.”

“The colors you see in the photographs are not computer enhanced,” says Schaal. “I try different filters until I can find one that fits perfectly.”

The inspiration came to Schaal “last summer from being bored, and I saw a photo that I believed to be taken with microscope using a filter.”

Although Schaal’s photographs may seem inscrutable at first, upon extended observation they become “very stigmatic abstract groups.”

“I wanted to create something that can get a reaction from people,” he said.

Schaal hung and organized the exhibit himself, focusing mainly on lighting aimed at every photograph to bring out the color.

“The light hits it, and it bounces right out and makes it glow,” he said. “The lighting is what makes it have a certain direction in the photos.”

The cell-like pictures are printed on aluminum sheets, which enhance the color of the image and help it last longer.

“Crystals in Flight No. 3,” a photograph of a mix of dried plant food shot at 400X, is one of his favorites in the exhibit.

There is no exact pattern or style that Schaal follows or represents his art. When he takes a photograph, he looks for three things: “Is it pretty? Is it beautiful? Do you feel it?”

“Each specimen is, in the end, a unique visual experience and challenge,” says Schaal. “It’s nice when things simply fall together and I’m presented with a beautiful surprise, but there’s real joy to be found in coaxing beauty from what began as something quite mundane.

“The only thing I’m looking for beauty.”

Photos by Brad Pease

Share this article