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David Stephenson

“Over the last quarter-century, David Stephenson has produced a remarkable body of work: one that is rigorously conceived, richly varied, critically informed, inventive, and poetic. This work is composed of a series of discrete and systematic investigations of a single large subject: the idea of the sublime.” (Keith F. Davis, “Admiration and Awe: David Stephenson and the Photographic Sublime” in David Stephenson, Visions of Heaven: The Dome in European Architecture, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.)

This fascination for the sublime has led Stephenson to travel and photograph extensively around the world, with journeys to the Himalayas, and both the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as extensive travel in Europe for his Domes project. “His work can and should be read as a series of themes and variations focusing on sacred spaces: the domes of cathedrals, mountains, the celestial vault, the Australian desert or the empty plains of Antarctica.” (Jorge Calado, “The Sublime in Space-Time” in David Stephenson, Symmetries Sublimes/Sublime Symmetries, Paris: Centre Cultural Calouste Gulbenkian, 2006.)

To Stephenson, such contemporary expressions of the sublime have the capacity foster spiritual and emotional transcendence. “The play of imagination triggered by the sublime allows the self to symbolically engage subjects or feelings that would otherwise be inaccessible. These sensory and emotional experiences constitute a new form of understanding—a complement to reason as traditionally understood. They illuminate a powerful and paradoxical truth: we are at once insignificantly small in the face of nature and an integral part of it.” (Keith F. Davis, op.cit.)