I photograph piles of sand and dirt from the streets and construction sites of Berlin. I then select and re-combine these objects into landscape compositions based on William Gilpin’s picturesque ideal.*
While shooting recently next to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, a man stopped to look at the subject in front of my camera - "It’s beautiful isn’t it…" he said, "…just like in the Alps!"
He too saw the potential in these piles of dirt that populate our city, that they recall immense and powerful landscapes. I wonder if it was it the first time he made this connection?
Here is a study in post-industrial picturesque taste; I seek to escape by seeking variety, nature and beauty, exotic locations. But in doing so, I find myself trapped within the conventions of a genre, producing repetitive, learned views of mountainous urban terrain. The result lacks the variety and novelty that I originally sought to find, I achieve only aesthetic uniformity and sameness. These are landscapes of contradiction.
When the rain causes the sand to slip,
Leaving a trail,
The surface takes on the appearance of one exposed to the elements,
It ages the object,
Bears down on it,
Gives it character.
The word landscape refers to seeing the land in a particular way, to see it as a picture, or at least its potential to be one.
‘Today our sight is a little weary, burdened by the memory of a thousand images….We no longer see nature, we see pictures over and over again’ - Paul Cézanne, 1902.
*William Gilpin (1724 – 1804) was an English artist, Anglican cleric, schoolmaster and author, best known as one of the originators of the idea of the picturesque.