7-1 | Table of Con­tents | DOI 10.17742/IMAGE.NBW.7-1.15 | Auer­PDF


Abstract | Jes­si­ca Auer’s pho­tographs often depict the impact of tourism on some of the world’s most pop­u­lar places, show­ing how land­scape has been pre­served, altered, or com­mod­i­fied for sight­see­ing. Her series On How to View Land­scape pro­pos­es that we also project our own mytholo­gies and per­cep­tions onto nature. In this project, we see the land­scape in rela­tion to our­selves, the view to a degree still a back­drop onto which we project our curiosi­ties and desires. Upon leav­ing these view­points we may or may not leave a trace, but we some­how become part of the over­all image.
Résumé | Les pho­tos de Jes­si­ca Auer mon­trent sou­vent l’impact du tourisme sur cer­tains des lieux les plus pop­u­laires au monde, en par­ti­c­uli­er la manière dont les paysages sont préservés, mod­i­fiés ou trans­for­més par le tourisme. Sa série Com­ment observ­er un paysage pro­pose que nous pro­je­tions nos pro­pres mythes et per­cep­tions sur la nature. Dans ce pro­jet, nous voyons le paysage en rela­tion avec nous-mêmes, la vue un arrière-plan sur lequel nous pro­je­tons notre curiosité et nos désirs.  Après avoir quit­té ces lieux nous lais­serons peut-être une trace mais d’une cer­taine manière nous faisons par­tie de l’image dans son ensem­ble.

Jes­si­ca Auer | Pho­tog­ra­ph­er

STUDIES ON HOW TO VIEWLANDSCAPE

 

The plea­sures of pho­tog­ra­phy and land­scape came togeth­er for me at the same time. Short­ly after I turned 10 years old, my par­ents divorced and, as a con­so­la­tion, my father bought me a 35mm Nikon cam­era. He also told me to pack a bag and be ready to leave the next day—that all I need­ed was a small bag of clothes, a book, and the camera—as I would be trav­el­ling with him through­out the sum­mer. Thus began my first road trip and my first pho­to­graph­ic mis­sion. Day after day, I expe­ri­enced a cin­e­mat­ic view of the Cana­di­an land­scape from the pas­sen­ger seat, wit­ness­ing sub­tle changes as we tra­versed the geog­ra­phy of a diverse coun­try, snap­ping pho­tos of every­thing from road­side attrac­tions to black spruce forests and the trains that often glid­ed along­side the Trans Cana­da High­way. Our arrival in Banff Nation­al Park was the most strik­ing expe­ri­ence of the jour­ney. The Rock­ies were rich in pho­to­graph­ic con­tent: col­or­ful lakes, pre­cip­i­tous moun­tains, spi­ral­ing rail­ways, and lots of oth­er peo­ple. It was dur­ing this first Nation­al Park expe­ri­ence that I learned that the sig­nif­i­cance of land­scape was not just about nat­ur­al vis­tas but also the cul­ture of nature.

Twelve years lat­er, I found myself once again at the edge of Moraine Lake. As a recent Uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ate with a BFA in pho­tog­ra­phy, I looked at the view before me with scru­ti­niz­ing eyes and a curi­ous mind. The sig­na­ture moun­tains of the Val­ley of Ten Peaks stood in front of me as they had before, but some­how the scene felt unfa­mil­iar. There were cer­tain­ly signs of cul­tur­al devel­op­ment, yet I still ques­tioned how much the land­scape had actu­al­ly changed. On the oth­er hand, how much had I changed?

Over the next decade I returned to Rock­ies sev­er­al times, as a retreat from the rou­tine of my pre­dom­i­nant­ly urban life in Mon­tre­al, but also to make pho­tographs. Since my stu­dent days, my research-based pho­to­graph­ic work has been large­ly con­cerned with the study of cul­tur­al sites, lead­ing me to pho­to­graph the impact of tourism on some of the world’s sig­nif­i­cant places, show­ing how land­scape has been pre­served, altered, or com­mod­i­fied for sight­see­ing. After sev­er­al years of exam­in­ing the top­ic from a pho­to­graph­i­cal­ly objec­tive per­spec­tive, I began to under­stand that the col­lec­tiv­i­ty of my expe­ri­ences has informed my per­spec­tive much more than the view­points to which I strug­gled to hike. Grow­ing weary of repeat­ing the same images I had already pro­duced, I chose to take a few steps back from the tra­di­tion­al view­point, to look at the sight­see­ing phe­nom­e­non from a more anthro­po­log­i­cal per­spec­tive.

In his sem­i­nal book Land­scape and Mem­o­ry, Simon Schama argues that land­scape can­not be free of cul­ture and that as view­ers we project our own mytholo­gies and per­cep­tions onto nature. Dur­ing the sum­mer of 2012, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a two-month artist res­i­den­cy at The Banff Cen­tre on Tun­nel Moun­tain. Using pho­to and video cam­eras to pas­sive­ly record the ges­tures and actions of sight­see­ing tourists, I shift­ed my focus to the space of the view­er rather than the space being viewed, observ­ing from a human per­spec­tive and on a human scale. “Stud­ies on How to View Land­scape” shows the land­scape in rela­tion to our­selves, the view to a degree still a back­drop onto which we project our curiosi­ties and desires and, to some extent, our inad­e­qua­cies. Upon leav­ing these view­points we may or may not leave a trace, but we some­how become part of the over­all image.

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Works Cited

 Schama, Simon. Land­scape and Mem­o­ry. New York: Vin­tage Books, 1996. Print.

Image Notes

Fig­ure 01: ‘Lake Louise #1’, 2010, CHprint,40”x50”

Fig­ure 02: ‘Glac­i­er Expe­ri­ence,’ 2012, CHprint,40”x50”

Fig­ure 03: ‘Lake Louise #2,’2012, CHprint, 40”x50”

Fig­ure 04: ‘Hik­ing the Plain of Six Glac­i­ers,’ 2012, CHprint, 40”x50”

Fig­ure 05: ‘Lunch at Senti­nal Pass,’ 2012, Inkjet Print, 60”x75”

Fig­ure 06: ‘Moraine Lake,’ 2012, HD Video Still

Fig­ure 07: ‘Sul­phur Moun­tain,’ 2012, HD Video Still

Fig­ure 08: ‘John­son Canyon,’ 2012, HD Video Still

Fig­ure 09: ‘Tun­nel Moun­tain,’ 2012, HD Video Still

Fig­ure 10: ‘Par­adise Val­ley,’ 2012, HD Video Still

Fig­ure 11: Pey­to Lake,’ 2012, HD Video Still