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Artist hangs by ankles to take photos

One glance at Marilyn Bridges' collection of photographs makes the viewer glad that she dangled outside of an airplane hundreds of feet above the Andes mountains.

Very few people choose to risk their lives in pursuit of the perfect photo shot. But Bridges, an adventurous pilot and photographer, travels the world, documenting man-made structures before they are entirely corrupted by the effects of time.

"Planet Peru" is her most recent collection of black and white aerial prints. The photographs, ranging from ancient Indian dwellings to modern military bases, are currently on display at the Duke University Museum of Art.

The prints incorporate crisp, clear images with remarkably pleasing contrasts of dark and light. According to Bridges, one of her main concerns was to project a three dimensional representation of her subjects. Through the use of shadows, the prints seem to offer a window into the unpredictable Peruvian landscape.

One breathtaking piece titled "Machu Picchu Among the Peaks of the Andes" presents an especially vivid depiction of the age-old Inca dwelling. The photograph shows the ruins existing harmoniously amid the giant peaks of the Andes mountains. While the ruins seem to be illuminated by light, the mountains in the background appear darker, thus framing the village amongst its surroundings.

In order to get the exact shot she desired, Bridges actually had to remove the door of the airplane she was shooting from and enlist a friend to hold her ankles while she hung out of the plane.

All of the photographs in the exhibit require a lengthy study to appreciate their full beauty. The uses of perspective, angle and shadow make each photo appear better than the next.

Some prints display the lush density of the Andes, while others, such as "Huacachina," deal with topographic views of the relentless Peruvian desert. "Huacachina" is a desert oasis that has been developed into a small village. Bridges' shot expertly captures passing clouds reflected in the mirror-like water.

Other photographs depict the huge imprints of animals and stick-like human figures that are a familiar sight on the Peruvian landscape. Imprints such as birds and snakes were created eons ago by simply removing a few inches of the dark-colored surface and exposing the light-colored subsoil. The photographs of these monstrous figures make the viewer wonder if the ancient Indians created the images specifically for aerial viewing.

"Man on Highway," a print of a huge billboard amid the desolate desert surroundings, triggers reflection on how current landmarks will be interpreted by future generations.

"Planet Peru," is the first exhibit in DUMA's 1993-1994 season. The photographs are on display through Sunday, Oct. 24th.

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