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High in the sky with Tim Foster

‘For the Birds’ on view now through Jan. 24

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SOMETIMES artists need to get away from it all to create work. When other artists go out of town, Tim Foster goes up.

Foster works for Soap on a Rope Window Cleaning, a high-rise cleaning company. He puts those rappelling skills to use in his photography, climbing the downtown buildings to capture a unique view of Savannah’s skyline.

“For the Birds” is on display at In Vino Veritas through Jan. 24.

Foster got his start in metals, jewelry and sculpture at SCAD, but he also became interested in 2D art as well as 3D.

“I was kind of moving from jo to job, and then the opportunity to do high-rise cleaning came about, and I decided I’d push myself into that,” recalls Foster.

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“I began having shows at Hang Fire—I brought it up to Wes [Daniel] about showing there and had a couple shows there with Jose Ray, an old roommate of mine. Then a couple years later I did a show at the Jepson, and that moved my art a little more forward the high-rise stuff.”

The photography that’s on display at In Vino Veritas is a collection of Foster’s work over the years. Birds-eye views from the tallest of Savannah’s buildings give the viewer a slight feeling of vertigo.

“On some of them, that was very intentional, but on other ones I wanted to give the idea of timelessness or the feeling that you could be a bug on the side of a building,” explains Foster. “It’s so easy now with drone photography to go, ‘Oh, that’s easy, I can get up there.’ But to be able to show someone, it’s a very different thing to be focused and taking photos at the same time you’re hanging from a rope. It’s organized to have a little bit of skyline and a lot of ground, to angle it to put people off center and feel as if you’re off balance.”

The perspective on the photographs does make for a bit of a dizzying, surreal feeling, a sentiment that Foster echoes.

“It’s surreal being up there,” he says. “There’s a lot of graffiti up there from the 1930s. There are little sculptures of torches, and on each one there’s this stuff that says, ‘1920, John Johnson Junior, cloudy day, God bless.’ It’s held for that long as a short graphite pencil.”

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Foster’s work is more complicated than using drones or an iPhone with a panorama capability, and that shows through in the final product.

“It’s hard to do panoramas because now they have processes where you have to scan the camera across, but a lot of the ones I’d taken were before those processes had gotten technologically advanced,” says Foster. “It would be me posing and twisting my way around, like 20 or 30 pictures, and then in Photoshop stitching them together and color editing. One thing you notice is you have to take basically three times as many because when you go across, you have to cut off corners.”

Through his work with Soap on a Rope, Foster has scaled almost every building in Savannah that’s over four stories tall, so he’s very familiar with the development over the years.

“I’ve seen a decline in architecture in Savannah when it comes to hotels,” muses Foster. “It’s not so much the height I’m worried about, but the building materials. You see things that are marble or limestone or, with the First Union building, there are levels that look like ceramic. Propes Hall above SCAD has a lot of building elements and it’s one of the photographs in the show where you can see fingerprints in the clay from things people have worked on.

“A lot of [the buildings are] hollow. The federal building in Ellis Square is beautifully designed, but that white cornice at the top is completely hollow. It’s a quarter inch thick. It’s made to last to a degree, but not something I want to be on. When you’re about to go over the edge and knock on it, you can hear how hollow it is. Some of this stuff, you can see flexing to a degree, largely because of trying to be cheaper with interiors.”

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