My recent landscapes and photographs of the built environment share an underlying narrative about human interaction or presence and the psychology of a particular place will always lead me to research and initiate a project.
The beauty of a landscape isn’t something that’s important to me in a finished photograph. Most of the time my photographs show a landscape that has been compromised either by environmental factors, or by its connection to a past narrative. The landscape can also be disrupted by surface interventions and flaws, as in these two series – Sea Level and Unseen Landscapes.
The locations in my photographs are never random. They are specific sites that I return to again and again, places I obsess over. In Unseen Landscapes the locations are equally important – selected because they are places I have never visited but would like to see.
Most of my projects continue for a year or longer. I think duration is important to be able to see what works and what doesn’t and to refine and develop new ideas. Sometimes it can lead to a second series, connected by theme or location, or can extend into a moving image work. I see the sequence of projects as a diary, revealing changes about myself and my interests over time.
I started the Unseen Landscapes project in 2012. Like many other people, I was fascinated with Google Street View technology and how it enables you to travel around the world experiencing locations that you have never seen in real life. If you were to visit those places in the future there would be a sense of recognition when you walked certain streets, saw familiar buildings.
I decided I would search for places in the UK that I had never visited but would like to see. These included islands off the coast of Scotland and areas of Northumberland and Wales. I continue to choose places surrounded by countryside, remote and accessible only by road. In most cases there are no particular markers that would make the location recognisable if I were to visit in the future.
As I look for locations I am also looking for digital aberrations caused by GSV – colour distortions, overlapping camera angles, refracted light, erased data and miscellaneous debris – and how they merge with the landscape. I then photograph the computer image and manipulate it. The images are presented in a soft, blue-toned circular format which aestheticizes the landscapes, distancing them further from the original record.
Sea Level focuses on the seafront of the small south coast town where I lived as a teenager. It’s a place that I still visit frequently and spending time there brings back memories. When we moved down from London it was a new beginning – strange and unsettling.
The beach shelters stretch from the west side of town to the east of the pier, and since 2014 I have been photographing through their windows capturing anonymous people as they pass by (for a series called Frame), and more recently photographing the sea. The shelters are dusty, dirty and the weathered glass is marked with graffiti producing images that are often quite abstract. The sea and the markings on the glass have equal importance in the finished photograph. The dust and neglect becomes part of the image reinforcing that sense of melancholy which runs through many seaside towns.
ABOUT MANDY WILLIAMS
Mandy is a London-based artist working with photography and video. She is interested in new approaches to landscape photography and the psychology of place. In her recent work she has documented environmental issues (Riverbed Stories), and created semi-fictional landscapes using Google Street View (Unseen Landscape).
Mandy regularly exhibits her work in the UK and Europe and has been recently published in #Photography, KALTBLUT Magazine, Another Place Magazine, and Platform Magazine. She was awarded the photography prize at the Royal West of England Academy in 2015, and took 3rd place in the International Photographer of the Year Award 2016 in the Architecture Interior category.
Unless otherwise stated, all words and images in this article are © Mandy Williams