Seattle-based photographer CHRIS ENGMAN uses the landscape as setting for his works, as the series LANDSCAPES, based on the vast open spaces of Washington State outside of Seattle, reveals.
When I set out to make a photograph I begin with an idea. I write about it, turn it over in my mind, and gradually the requirements for a site take shape. I then go out and drive, sometimes for a long time, until I find that site. The idea is not a response to the landscape; in my work the landscape is a response to the idea. Once I’ve found and used a site I become attached to it, and there are some that I frequently revisit. They go from being spaces where I am free to let my imagination wander to being places with a personal history and familiarity. I have dreams about buying up all that land and doing nothing with it so that it will be left alone.*
LANDSCAPE FOR BENJAMIN (DESERT)
When I refer to these spaces as an empty canvas I mean that they are relatively free from distracting associations, so that the work can just be the work. Undeveloped land, ocean views, deserts, the associations they have are ones that are appropriate to the work: freedom, possibility and a desire for purity.*
I think a lot about Robert Smithson’s work relating to time and place. The Earthworks artists often have more in common with my process and practice than do landscape photographers. I enjoy the work of Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria, Georges Rousse and Robert Irwin. The re-photographic work of Mark Klett has been an influence recently. Fiction by writers such as Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Faulkner and Hemingway often directly spurs ideas for particular photographs. Also the writings of the neurologist Oliver Sacks are an influence.*
DUST TO DUST, 220 DEGREES
Find out more at http://www.chrisengman.com/index.php
* Extracts from Talent Issue (#24), Foam Magazine, September 2010.
Read more at http://www.chrisengman.com/writings.php