“It’s both the genius and curse of photography to be bound to the time and place of its subject,” says Canadian photographer Jason Gowans. Separating a photograph from its author, timestamp, and GPS coordinates is a cerebral challenge, but that’s exactly what Gowans set out to do last year in a series called Five Landscape Modes. “I wondered if it’s possible to represent the idea of landscape in photography without representing the actual sites,” he explains.
Five Landscape Modes, which is on view at Gallery Fukai in Vancouver until January 12, is a collection of what you might call non-images. Each large-format print is specific enough to be recognizable–oh, isn’t that the ridge on such-and-such hiking trail?–but vague enough that it’s impossible to discern a particular time or author. That’s because each image is cobbled together from multiple sources and eras. ”I built maquettes using found negatives, my own photographs, and images from the Internet,” says Gowans. “I photographed them to create several angles, exposures, shadows and pieced these fragments together.”
As you might expect, the theoretical underpinnings of Five Landscape Modes come direct from Land Art greats like Robert Smithson, though Gowan also points to Western movie sets as a major source of inspiration. The common frustration of the photographer played a part, too: “I would go out into the landscape, be overwhelmed, come back into the city, and be confronted with images that were decidedly underwhelming,” he says. “They conveyed none of the concepts I was interested in once they were bound to a rectilinear plane.” It was only by grafting 2-D images onto 3-D forms that Gowans found a way to convey the overwhelming complexity.
Five Landscape Modes is on view at Gallery Fukai until January 12. More information is here.