A Beautiful Oil Spill


Pathetic birds with crude-coated wings are the usual foul photographic emblems of oil spills. Seattle-based photographer Daniel Beltrá complicates the story implied by those sad news photos in his gallery show "SPILL."

Beltrá spent two months photographing the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout from high up in the air over the Gulf of Mexico. The exhibition, which ran in March and April at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, consisted chiefly of gorgeous large-format photos emphasizing the luminous colors of oil spread abstractly across the sea's surface. (Images from the show can be seen online at Working boats lost in the vast windrows of crude reveal the scale of the incident. Beltrá, a conservationist, hopes to provoke outrage, but he attenuates that goal with the seductive sublimity of his photographs. —Ronald Bailey