In Memoriam: Andrew Reisse

Andrew Reisse Photo 1 Andrew Reisse Photo 1
Andrew Reisse Photo 1 Andrew Reisse Photo 1
Andrew Reisse Photo 1 Andrew Reisse Photo 1

You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.  -- Ansel Adams

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.   –- Dorothea Lange


Perhaps Andrew Reisse worked in a framework much like Dorothea Lange, by taking his camera around the country to show people how to see without a camera in their hands. Rather than focus on human subjects as she did, Reisse spent time photographing landscapes in and around the United States. His most vivid and poignant work seems to center on water that is simultaneously moving and still. During his brief life, he photographed a wealth of waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. He spent time capturing water as it communes with boulders and rocks in such diverse places as Eloah Falls in Oregon, Sols Creek in North Carolina, and Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah Park. At the same time, he also found still, serene moments at Mono Lake and the Potomac River gorge.

Reisse’s photographs emanate a placidity that borders on the spiritual. He grants for us moments of calm—pieces of the natural world around us that we would probably hike past, or take a hurried, blurred photograph of as we rushed on our way to the next sight. He made photographs that reinforce the reality that quiet land can rest against the forceful, chaotic movement and flow of water. These photographs also capture the surprising colors that envelop the lakes and waterfalls he spent time with—from sharp yellow greens of mossy rock to stark white winter roots and trees near which some waterfalls have frozen and other waterfalls continue to run.

Looking at Andrew Reisse’s landscape photographs allow for those who knew him to remember a bit about how he constructed and saw the world. The photographs record a moment in time when he was very much alive, experiencing the same moment that we do. What we view, Andrew has viewed, and we become the two people Ansel Adams acknowledges in landscape photography, the photographer and the viewer. Andrew is our guide, the person who has made a landscape remarkable, memorable, and fixed in time and space. For those of us who have never met him, our brief meeting with him gives us a way to learn about the creative man who was an exceptional computer graphics engineer, an intellectually curious artist, and a bright star and alumnus of the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland.

It was at the University of Maryland where Andrew cultivated his love of Computer Science and game development, and it was here that he met Michael Antonov and Brendan Iribe, men with whom he would work to build innovative technology for Scaleform and Gaikai, which then culminated in his work at Oculus where he was a co-founder and lead engineer for the SDK. His colleagues and friends remember Andrew for his creativity, his mentoring, and his fierce belief in open source projects. Andrew’s intellectual curiosity and independence are traits to which all students should aspire, and which all students should spend time developing. Michael Antonov and Brendan Iribe are choosing to honor these things about Andrew in a new building space that gives all CS students the ability to emulate Andrew’s cleverness, enthusiasm for learning, and his work ethic.

Andrew Reisse’s code still lives in a variety of projects and software that people enjoy today, his photography remains online (, and a few of his photographs hang in the Computer Science Department. In the new building, Andrew’s work will find a home as well.

Because Andrew’s photographs have a clarity and otherworldliness to them, it is easy enough to imagine that one day, Andrew’s friends and colleagues will be able to spend a few moments with him by viewing his photographs, or the places he has photographed, with the technology that he helped to create.

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