Corrine Vionnet’s series Photo Opportunities is a collection of pieces on iconic landmarks, each one composed of hundreds of self-similar tourist photographs layered together into a new composition.
While the three essays she reproduces on her site focus on the sightseers/tourists and their consistent, shared, unimaginative “shared memory” view of the monuments, I am more interested in the layers of meaning that can be extracted from the finished pieces.
The effect of the dissolution and blur on these icons sometimes works to invoke associations: Big Ben for instance is lost in the fog, while the Twin Towers are lost in grief.
The way that the photos are layered also creates some interesting readings, especially in the ones with very clear focal points where the pictures are registered. The cooperative tourist shots combined do what a single one cannot: make into a beacon the portrait of Mao in the Forbidden City, make a grinding gyre around the black rock at Mecca, or complete the Colliseum. Interestingly, there most photographers choose an angle that shows its damage — the aesthetic normative — and the small group that shoot from another angle fill in ghostily what the eye can only imagine.
And my favorite layer of meaning: some seem to consciously refer to or homage art history. Clearly the whole project is a variant of cubism, assembling different views, but the dynamism referenced in the Golden Gate Bridge composition is apparent: compare to Balla’s Dynamism of Dog on a Leash. Likewise, you can’t assemble hundreds of pictures of Mt. Fuji without referring to Hokusai. Her composition, like his series of prints, seems to show Fujiyama as being a constant, unchanging icon while the days, nights, seasons and crowds change around it. The blurry Eiffel Tower in a series of chromatic greys looks all the world like a piece of lost Impressionism – Caillebotte‘s pallete and Monet’s brush? And the texture at the bottom/foreground of the Matterhorn piece feels remarkably like the scraped brushwork of a late modern painter like Kiefer.
One of the primary instigators of early modern painting was photography’s effortless encroachment into the realist space painting had long occupied. With these recombined works, Vionnet collages cliché photography into something that recapitulates the project of modern painting: expressing different aspects of time, light and viewpoint, abstracting and dissolving its subjects into impressions, thumbing its nose at photography which can only represent realistically a single moment.
15 more plus essays at Vionnet’s site.