Credit: Leslie Kiefer

The Photoworks exhibition “Earth.Water.Air” gets right down to the themes of its title: tranquil explorations of the natural world.

The exhibit, curated by Sarah Gordon, features three photographers who specialize in intimate landscapes. 

Of the three, the one who produces the most intimate works is Rebecca Clews, whose images are dramatic and color-saturated. Dense and abstract, and sometimes verging on unreal, Clews’ painterly images—created and collaged in Photoshop from hundreds of microscopic images—are apt to suggest everything from volcanic lava flows to roiling ocean waves. At times, her tableaux color palettes are bold to the point of aggressive, particularly those that use blazing shades of amber; easier on the eyes are the studies in blue-green that exude the coolness of the ocean bottom. 

Meanwhile, the photographs by Caroline Minchew are more consistently sedate, mostly comprised of black-and-white images of forest details, such as spindly tree trunks and wispy leaves. The ones that work best are Minchew’s cyanotypes on fabric, which conjure the aesthetic of blue-toned, scientific images from the mid-nineteenth century. 

Leslie Kiefer, meanwhile, wins props for taking a counterintuitive route. Rather than photographing natural scenes for their beauty, she documents them for their decay—“the ignored, the hidden, the overlooked, the everyday,” as she puts it. 

Working in two local gardens—Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Green Spring Gardens—over the course of five years, Kiefer has made images in which color is the exception rather than the rule. The browns and grays of mud and decomposing matter overwhelm the green shades of life, which means that when any green appears, it’s all the more precious. 

Through Sept. 25 at Photoworks Gallery, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md. Sat 1-4 and Sun 1-8.