Simon Roberts was commissioned by the Swiss Foundation for Photography and the Musée de l’Elysée to contribute work towards the group exhibition Unfamiliar Familiarities: Outside Views on Switzerland. Capturing images in some of the most-photographed places in Switzerland, deliberately seeking out the picturesque landscape views that attract tourists.
How do you as an artist achieve the shots that you capture?
My large format photographs are taken with great technical precision, often from elevated positions. The high vantage point allows the relationship of individual bodies and groups to the landscape to be clearly observed. With this series I was looking to get access to the rooftops of buildings, or higher ground on the edge of the mountains where I could look over the various viewing platforms I was photographing. If such access wasn’t available then I resorted to a large step ladder (carried around by my long-suffering assistant!). I wanted my photographs to resemble a set, where the viewing platform references a stage within on which the tourists enact and produce their desired togetherness and social relations, transforming places into private theatres; whilst the landscape becomes a backdrop for these various performances.
What challenges do you come across when shooting ?
The main challenge was the weather, particularly in winter. My assistant and I would be spending up to 3 or 4 hours waiting outside for the right climatic conditions or for groups of tourists to arrive – in temperatures reaching down to -35 degrees, and sometimes whilst perched on a ladder, this was pretty challenging. In one instance, to get the height I required, we had to shovel snow off a few hundred steps, which took a good couple of hours of hard labour!
What experience does the audience take away from this piece of work?
Both my photographs and augmented data provide two different experiences. The former provide an opportunity for the viewer in the gallery to explore the scene and the various narratives playing out within the photograph, due to the scale they are printed. By using augmented reality to pull the viewer into the landscape and emphasise fleeting moments, the essences of these individual locations can be exposed, and their past can be incorporated. This data provides a parallel reading of the landscape through real-time photographs accessed by hash tagged images uploaded online and a series of videos that take you on to the platforms and interact with the photographs in a more intimate way. Using both elements my intention with this work is to offer the viewer new, multiple perspectives on the Swiss landscape.
Simon Roberts is now showing videos Part 1 & 2 of Sight Sacralization at Saatchi Gallery, as part of the group exhibition “From Selfie to Self Expression” until the 30th of May.