Scenic Views

Following the series Photo Opportunities, Scenic Views is oriented towards American Landscapes topics.

Working with multiple images for different landscapes, she collates around a hundred appropriated photographs for each of her layered, ethereal compositions. Underneath these ghost visions is a serious concern with how the persistence of formally repeated photographic compositions affects our cultural and historical awareness.

Scenic Views, 2006-ongoing

MOMA of San Francisco, snap+share, transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks _ curated by Clément Chéroux

We travel, we see a monument, we take a picture. Framing sites of mass tourism in our viewfinders, we create photographic souvenirs that are integral to the touristic experience.

Beginning in 2005, Swiss/French artist Corinne Vionnet began to conduct online keyword searches of vernacular images of tourist landmarks from around the world after observing that most snapshots were either conscious or unconscious renderings of existing imagery of that location. This led her to examine how we select the optimum spot from which to photograph a landmark and how we edit out that which is superfluous to our constructed realities of leisure. Where do we stand at the gateway to the Taj Mahal in order to render its architectural façade in perfect symmetry? How do we frame the most photographed bridge in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, in our viewfinders? Are we socially conditioned to take pictures we have seen before?

Pouring over statistics on popular travel destinations and photo-sharing web sites, Vionnet collected thousands of images of geographically and culturally symbolic places. This extensive research culminated in Photo Opportunities (2005-2014), the artist’s commentary on mass tourism and its relationship to digital culture. Weaving together over one hundred photographic perspectives and experiences for each composition, Vionnet created her own layered, ethereal structures. Marks on the landscape such as the Parthenon, the Giza Pyramids, and the Hollywood sign float in a dream-like haze. Tourists appear as apparitional beings, allowing the viewers to insert themselves into the photograph and envisage their own exclusive encounters with each location.

Underneath these beautiful ghost visions is a serious concern with how the persistence of formally repeated photographic compositions both constructs and disrupts our perceptions of space over time, referencing photography’s deep-seated authority to supersede reality. As Sontag aptly put it, touristic excursions are often scripted successions of photographic mediations with the real – disruptions that distance us from any direct engagement with our local environment. The construction and review of the contemporary travelogue allows us to draw out the nostalgic process of reflection so as to elongate and idealize experience over time. When shared online, these “photograph-trophies” assimilate into vast directories of indexical images tethered to our geographical sociocultural imaginaries.

In Photo Opportunities, Corinne Vionnet theorizes our consumption of, and contribution to, these patterns in visual culture, providing a nuanced perspective that may provide inspiration for our own next photo opportunity.

Madeline Yale Preston