"I want my photographs to provoke people to look, to ask questions and to find their own answers, because that is exactly what I am doing through taking them," says the young photographer
Catherine Hyland’s fascination with landscape is the inspiration behind her otherworldly large format images depicting humanity’s attempts – some more effective than others – to tame the environment. It’s an observation that has led to both artistic and commercial commissions, with residencies at venues such as the Focal Point Gallery in Southend for the Radical Essex programme, the Cultural Association Su Palatu Fotografia in Sardinia and the Design Museum in London. She has also made a short documentary for the Sri Lanka Design Festival on the country’s eco-factories.
Hyland’s view of the world is particularly apparent in her series Belvedere, Italian for “beautiful view”, which observes the way people interact with and experience the tourist sites and places of leisure, from Beidaihe in China to Durdle Door in Dorset. “People constantly try to escape our mediated world because it’s very difficult to find something truly authentic,” says the London based photographer.
“So much of our life is based around reproductions and mass-manufactured illusion that we start to get the overwhelming feeling we’re all occupying the same space. So we seek out new experiences as a remedy for that feeling.”
Her other ongoing project, Universal Experience, instead suggests the insignificance of humanity set against the vastness of Chinese and Mongolian landscapes. Her work combines ideas of the sublime, the tourist gaze and collective memory with theories on survey photography and the ways in which we try to control the land around us, placing the natural and the artificial side by side.
“I think the main role of the photographer in society is to make people see the world in a different way. I want my photographs to provoke people to look, to ask questions and to find their own answers, because that is exactly what I am doing through taking them – that is and was my main motivation.”
Alicia Hart, the creative picture researcher at the AMV BBDO agency, who has worked with Hyland on two commissions for British Airways’ High Life magazine, says: “On both shoots she made friends in the remotest of places and found a story where there was little to go on, and made magic happen. This separates her from many other photographers. She is a free thinker, and her training as a photo editor makes her a joy to work with.”
After completing a degree in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London, Hyland did an MA in visual communication at the Royal College of Art to expand her discipline in new directions. She has an ability to visualise the complexities of landscape with incredible depth. Next, she is beginning to use sound and moving image to push her work into more immersive areas.