Echoes of a Primordial Kansas

Karen Glaser’s photographs in the January/February 2012 issue of Orion (“Dark Sharks and Light Rays”) evoke a silent, shifting, near-alien world. The full series, which Glaser captured without a flash, was recently on display at the PHOTO gallery in Oakland; a selection from the series was also featured at the Corden/Potts gallery in San Francisco. We asked her about the creative impulse behind these remarkable and mysterious images.

One of my favorite haunts as a kid was the dinosaur hall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. About five years ago I visited the newly redesigned hall and a particular exhibit struck me: an underwater ocean scene—dark and dramatically lit—that reproduced the motion and quality of light shining above deep water. The whole food chain was represented, from scores of small fish hiding in one massive bait ball, to the large predator overhead. The drama of life and survival, unfolding. The exhibit’s label read: “The scene before you represents a moment in time about 83 million years ago in what is now western Kansas.”

“Dark Sharks and Light Rays” was photographed in waters that remind me of primordial western Kansas. Locations were in the Pacific off the Americas, specifically Cocos Island and the Galapagos. The boat crossing, on a live-aboard, from Punterenas, Costa Rica to remote Cocos, takes thirty-two to thirty-six hours.

My photographic process is pretty simple: I tuck away my ego, my senses alive and electrified, acutely aware that Mother Nature is in charge of these challenging and primeval waters. Then I react, photographing instinctually the magnificence going on all around.

View “Dark Sharks and Light Rays” in its entirety, with print descriptions, at


  1. 40 years ago ,I think it was, from Pike’s Peak,overlooking the Plains,I was struck by how it all looked so much like an Ocean

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