2021 Latin America Professional Award winner Andrea Alkalay unpacks the thinking behind her series Landscape on Landscape.
‘I am always curious about the discrepancy between what we see and what we know, and where these qualities contradict each other or co-exist simultaneously.’
This image (titled: Cod # F7C29F) is made up of two digital photos. The front is a black & white photograph, manually folded. The background is a chromatic digitization of the original monochrome photo, before I converted it into black & white. It is part of my Landscape on Landscape project I developed in 2020.
During last year’s lockdown in Buenos Aires, I remembered my travels. I can clearly remember the feeling of certain places. It got me thinking that the images on postcards never reflect the experience of actually being in a place. I was inspired to follow this idea. The project comes from my explorations into my photo archives, looking specifically for untouched natural scenes. It is also an observation into the notion of landscape, which is defined variously within changing ideas about place. I am interested in the idea of nature as a cultural construction and the composition of a new landscape.
For me, photography is a way of putting into question our sense of certainty. As John Berger says, ‘To look is an act of choice.’ We are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. I explore the illusion of a natural landscape image and its chromatic decomposition, transferring what is captured by sight to the codes of another system (RGB). The gap where the authentic meets the constructed, where the real and the manipulated overlap.
For this project, the consideration of parallels between figuration/abstraction is part of the objective. In the foreground is a monochrome scene, and behind it is a digital ‘backstage’. These photographs combine opposing qualities that attract each other, such as the perception of colour through its absence or the flatness of the paper through its fold.
This chosen photograph was shot at sunset in Luang Prabang, Laos. Both the mountains and the cloudy sky are not really orange, gray and dark greens, but it's the way the light is scattered from the blurred atmosphere and the way it is reflected. An object appears coloured because of the way it interacts with light and, clearly, the perception of colour depends on individual interpretation. The range of colours that emerge seems artificial at a glance, although they belong to the natural world. They are working like barcodes.
The chromatic palettes are shown through the folding of the black & white print. I perform manual gestures (the folding of the paper) to break the illusion and draw attention to the artifice and materiality of the photographic representation. I am always curious about the discrepancy between what we see and what we know, where these qualities contradict each other and coexist simultaneously.
I entered this series into the Sony World Photography Awards to give exposure to my artwork. Receiving the Latin America Professional Award is a key moment in my trajectory as an artist. The series has been featured in some of the most prestigious art-related media. Highlighted in photo magazines such as F-Stop, Click-magazine, Revista G7, Revista Meta, Arte al Dia, etc, the work was also exhibited at the BAphoto fair and at Oda Arte Gallery. Artsy included the series in the 2021 Saatchi Art New Voices catalog and I have seen it featured widely on social media. It’s so wonderful to see the series receive such good feedback, the Award has opened dialogues with other photographers, curators and media. So many opportunities are happening now. For this, and for the super Sony camera that will help me maximize my technical performance, I am enormously grateful and proud. It empowers me by opening opportunities for new challenges.