Utopic Landscapes

Photo Studio, Ecology

Georg Parthen is fascinated by utopia. The German photographer confesses finding inspiration in science-fiction movies and novels, while his beauty ideals draw on the “brutal and formalistic” architecture of Germany’s Rurh region, which was completely rebuilt in the 1950s and ‘60s after heavy bombardment during WWII.

So Parthen’s landscapes project, Landschaften, explores the way digital alteration connects reality to photography. He calls the series “an extension” of the landscape genre: “They can only work because there is such a long tradition of landscape photography. I don’t consider them fakes, but rather as an invitation to engage more with the image, before contemplating the depicted world, and not the other way around.”

Describing photography as “foremost a construction” and objectivity “only an attribution”, Parthen argues for the intimacy of imagined places:
“I just returned from a trip through the Californian Redwood forest, which was very unreal. Strangely I did not photograph there at all. For the series I only chose places that - in an image - might evoke doubt but still feel familiar. They should feel like you remember the place from somewhere yet you can’t put your finger on it. It’s a bittersweet combination of emotions that I am hoping for”.

Landschaften achieves that irresistibly complex appeal. After seeing one of Parthen’s images in a show, one woman wrote to find out where it had been shot. According to Parthen, “She knew one of the places in my images from her dreams…Tragically, I have lost her email and could never answer her. Perhaps she will read this interview and write to me again.”