More than just a photo portfolio
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Inside the enhanced site, Experience presents its images through an interface that isn't so much based on navigation as discovery. Invisibly resting beneath each full-screen photograph are a selection of thumbnails which dissolve into and out of view as visitors move their mouse pointer around the screen. A click on a thumbnail loads that image into full-screen mode - with a whole new set of possibilities hidden beneath. And while each full-screen photograph has multiple thumbnails from which to choose your next tangent, the thumbnails themselves are constantly shifting beneath the visible surface, so that 'exploring your options' and then coming back to a specific spot on the screen will not necessarily reveal the same thumbnail you saw there moments ago. (Or any thumbnail at all, for that matter.) In other words, there is no systematic way to explore this exhibition, so don't even try - just relax and enjoy each new surprise.Skip to next paragraph
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After you've experienced Experience, Vision shares some of the backstory to the project, an introduction to the physical installation and novel, and short clips from the film. (The film clips, though short, are as dramatic in their color and lighting as the stills, and may go some way toward allaying the suspicions of the Photoshop skeptics.) A subset of images is also available at Vision, presented by way of a more conventional, but still inventive, navigational system.
Other stops include some information about the Nomadic Museum, a related educational site (with background video), and the Codex Ashes and Snow - which presents its images in a "click to turn the pages" book form. An online Bookstore - slated to open in the Spring - promises handmade books as well as posters, CDs, DVDs, and exhibition catalogues.
In terms of static visual design (easily overlooked with everything going on here), Ashes and Snow sets the mood with a "virtual parchment" environment. Low, resonant music and occasional snippets of spoken word add an audio element to the atmosphere. The music can get tiresome over longer stays, though, so a mute button is provided on every page.
If you can't manage the enhanced presentation, a basic version offers a smaller selection of images in a visitor-run slide show, and more conventional methods of presenting the supporting material. You may be missing out on the high-tech Web design, but content is always the final arbiter of any website's worth, and there is still enough of that content in the basic site to merit a tour.
In either version, pages can be very slow to load, which I expect is a factor not only of the size of the files, but also heavy Web traffic (a personal revisit on Saturday afternoon was much slower than a visit late Thursday night). If things are just moving too slowly, don't give up on the site entirely; try coming back later - after the buzz has died down or the site has been moved to a more capable server.
As for the show's name? The site says only that the source for the title is revealed in the last of 365 letters that make up the novel component of the larger project. (Though one of the fragments of poetry that play during the enhanced presentation would seem to be related.)
Ashes and Snow can be found at http://www.ashesandsnow.org.