AS BIG AS LIFE

BY JEFF HAMPTON

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Walk into Crawshay Gallery and you enter a world of endless horizons, spectacular colors and astonishing clarity. In front of you is the Grand Canyon in all of its glory, to the side is the Golden Gate Bridge stretched out in the midday sun, and behind you is a cool, calm stream somewhere in the deep green heart of England.

The gallery in Dallas’ Design District is home to Phil Crawshay’s stunning ultra high-resolution photography. The images are so large that the viewer may get lost in their majesty. And they’re so sharp and detailed that if you stare long enough you may feel yourself melting into the scene.

“There are very few photographers in the United States working at this level,” he says. “The precision, detail and resolution are absolutely unparalleled.”

At the heart of Crawshay’s process is the same photographic technology used by NASA on the Mars rover to capture panoramic images of the Red Planet. A programmable robotic camera mount allows Crawshay to take up to hundreds of images across a grid and then blend them into a single, seamless photograph not measured in megapixels but in gigapixels.

But technology is just a tool. It still takes an artist with a keen eye for composition and a strong sense of visual drama to locate and capture the images that ultimately become gorgeous works of photographic art. Each piece is scrupulously handcrafted by Crawshay himself throughout the entire production and mounting process.

“Shooting for a large format is quite different because you are watching for details that you don’t normally see,” Crawshay explains. It might be a silhouetted couple leaning from a high-rise balcony to view a Texas Hill Country sunset, a lone figure standing on a rocky ledge above the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon or the delicate veins in the individual petals of a Texas bluebonnet standing 4 feet tall.

What’s more, it takes physical endurance to carry bulky equipment to remote locations for a shoot and patience to wait for the perfect light. “Sometimes it takes some pretty serious hiking to get to these places,” he says.

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Crawshay sells limited edition pieces in custom sizes and also accepts commissions. Early in 2015, he chose Dallas as his home base and located his gallery on prestigious Dragon Street in the Dallas Design District. “Dallas is a city with uncompromised taste and appreciation of the arts and culture, and I am thrilled to be here,” he says.

Crawshay leaves nothing to chance when working with a customer. He will visit an office or home, photograph the walls and then superimpose the selected image on the wall to finalize the size and location. The visit also gives him a sense of the customer’s decorating tastes, which helps determine how the finished piece will be framed or mounted.

Crawshay produces and mounts each image himself through an exacting process that he has learned and perfected. The images are printed on metallic photo paper and then are face-mounted on acrylic. “This gives the images a unique glow and what can be described as an almost threedimensional look,” he says.

Crawshay also makes himself available for the final installation and recommendations on lighting the piece. “Lighting for any art is a good thing, but these images don’t require any type of special fixtures,” he says.

With Crawshay’s images encompassing such a wide range of subjects and locations—from painted desert vistas and spiraling red rock canyons to verdant landscapes and glittering city skylines—it makes sense for a visitor to ask the artist what motivates and inspires him.

“I capture a moment in time. Things take on a life of their own when they are very large,” he says. “I like them all for different reasons. Each image has a story behind it, and I enjoy sharing my adventures.”

Jeff Hampton is a freelance writer based in Garland, Texas. Find out more at jeffhamptonwriter.com.