MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — For 40 years, Holland native David Lubbers traveled the globe to capture images of parts of the world that many of us may never see. Now, he has brought those images home to West Michigan.
Earlier this month, the Muskegon Museum of Art opened its latest exhibition, called “David Lubbers: The Mysterious Landscape,” which showcases some of Lubbers’ most otherwordly shots.
“They’re natural phenomena, but you can’t quite understand them or they’re in a very strange and unusual location,” the museum’s director of collections and archives Art Martin explained.
Lubbers’ work is on display in the Muskegon Museum of Art and at Grand Valley State University. GVSU’s exhibit focuses solely on Michigan landscapes, whereas Muskegon will showcase photographs from across the country, specifically in the Southwest. The gallery includes shots of Death Valley, narrow canyons and stones carved by the forces of nature, which Lubbers took a special interest in during his time as a photographer.
Lubbers agreed to the exhibits because he is currently looking for places to house his work and give people the chance to draw inspiration and enthusiasm for the art form.
Despite the success Lubbers has had in his career, he said he doesn’t think of himself as a photographer — he never took a formal class or had a mentor. He said he was always looking out of windows and just wanted to capture things he saw “the way he wanted.”
“I’ve done more than I ever expected to do,” Lubbers said. “But I’ve never considered myself much of a photographer. I have a photographic eye I guess.”
That eye is something Lubbers has always had. He remembers the first time he saw the world in a unique way when he was in the fifth grade. He stared out of a window, moved his head in all sorts of directions and was able to contort the objects outside in his line of vision. Lubbers did that throughout his education and was even questioned about it by a friend while at Calvin University.
“She asked me if I was OK and I said, ‘Yeah, why?’ It never occurred to me what other people might have seen when I was doing it,” he said.
Looking out of windows has become a major part of Lubbers’ life. He said the first time he realized he wanted to go out into the world and capture moments in time was on his first day at his first teaching position in California. In a yearbook picture with his students, Lubbers is seen not looking at the camera, but out of the window into the world.
“I should’ve known that that was a sign,” Lubbers said. “That I wanted to be out of there.”
He would teach for a few more years before settling into his craft full-time, often sleeping in his car and venturing out into areas that very few people even knew about. On top of that, Lubbers was also known for his work after the photos were taken. Martin said one of the most interesting parts regarding the gallery is the fact that Lubbers worked in a darkroom instead of using digitally-generated prints for his work.
“You can tell that someone labored and taxed over them,” Martin said.
Before dedicating his life to photography, Lubbers spent his life in the state of Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1973 before teaching in the Grand Rapids Public School System for 12 years. Martin said the Michigan state connection is something he’s proud to showcase.
“To have an exhibit like this … it’s really rewarding for us to show that art is being made here,” Martin said.
“David Lubbers: The Mysterious Landscape” can be viewed at the Muskegon Museum of Art through May 14. GVSU’s exhibit of Lubbers will be open until April 29 at the L.V. Eberhard Center in Grand Rapids.