Photofusion Member: Liz Orton

Photofusion has a loyal and talented community of Members. Every couple of weeks we do a new blog post focusing on the new work by one of our Members.

This week we see the work of photographer Liz Orton, from her project ‘Deltiologies’.

‘The whole universe of travel photography was evoked in each individual image, as though it formed part of a vast single photograph’ (Osborne, 2010).

This work both celebrates and challenges the tradition of landscape photography. It takes as its starting point the idea that landscape is a representation, rather than a natural scene ‘out there’ in the world. Landscape is informed by histories of looking, and by cultural and visual narratives of nature.

My work is collaged from scans of early twentieth century photochroms. I am interested in the conventions that constitute landscape photography, both then and now. These conventions are so natural or normal as to be invisible: the fixed/static viewpoint; a distant perspective on an expanding view; the proportioned arrangement of foreground, middle ground and background; the picturesque exclusion of agriculture and industry; ‘nature’ as pristine and untouched. These visual practices helped popularize an idealized version of Alpine landscapes to people all over Europe and America at the turn of the century.

I have categorised the postcards according to recurring motifs such as lakes, snowy peaks, waterfalls and villages. Subject and composition are endlessly repeated. My approach to this work is to disassemble and reassemble fragments, and produce new arrangements of landscape in which it is harder to locate oneself as a viewer. The circularity is unbalancing – it disturbs the viewer’s expectation of a horizon and an expanding view. I play with the circle as a metaphor and a means to draw attention to the eye and the photographic lens, as instruments of vision.

Cutting images appeals to me as a way to undermine the usual integrity of the picture surface, and to emphasise its materiality. Fracturing and recomposing the image is also a way for me to challenge the assumed authority of the image and the straightforward admiration of the view. I am interested in playing with classificatory approaches to making work as a means to question the role of order in how we produce understandings of nature. The effect is a double-construction, a representation of a representation.

Photochroms marked a turning point in landscape photography. They were part of the transition from monochrome to colour landscapes, and marked the beginning of a mass market for landscape imagery in the form of postcards. The images implicate the consumer in a visual promise, in which landscape becomes tied up with notions of self-improvement and transformation via travel and sight seeing. They allow both proximity to and distance from ideas of elsewhere, becoming a substitute for experience and a site for dreams in which it is possible to become other than oneself.

To see more of Liz Orton’s work please visit her website