Image © Odette England
When Odette England went to photograph the Australian Outback she took a novel approach; she would shoot the ground beneath her feet and then the sky directly above that spot.
“These are ‘double exposures’ created in Photoshop, made with a Hasselblad HD3,” she explains. “The technique here was very fixed, very rigid as to how the images were taken. I don’t mind changing what the camera finds but this work was very disciplined. It’s not typical of my work as I like to be more explorative. It was a new experience for me and quite refreshing.”
England found that her work was at the whim of the winds: “I didn’t go out seeking a specific weather pattern, I just took what I got. I was more interested in the place, wherever that place might be. So in that sense the final image is always unplanned.”
While the project (As Above So Below) itself might seem random, it is the result of serious contemplation. “I like to spend a lot of time on research before I take on a project. I came across a book by James Cowan (whence the phrase “as above, so below” comes) about the attachment indigenous people have for their landscape and environment. I want to give a visual, photographic representation to this feeling, which is alien to white Australians and Europeans in general. The Aborigines consider themselves one with the landscape – the sky above, the earth below and they themselves acting as a middle layer.
“I wasn’t trying to portray the landscape as indigenous people might see it; my work was more tempered by my personal understanding of the environment.”
The series was made during an artist research residency, and England was appointed as a visiting fellow by the University of New South Wales, to live and work at the Arid Zone Research Station of the Imaging the Land Research Institute (ILIRI) from May-June 2009. ILIRI is Australia’s only research institute concerned with the artistic interpretation of the science of land.
Apart from intellectual considerations, England found that the alien environment threw up challenges of its own: “Working in the desert totally forces you to adopt a new methodology. You have to rethink how you work and what you want from the shoot when you’re 120km from the nearest source of help.”
Above and Beyond is on show at Klompching Gallery in New York from 16 June until 06 August.
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