About the Photographer
Canadian, b. 1969
Isabelle Hayeur's vast panoramic landscapes portray the fringes of anonymous urban areas or the margins of smaller settlements, where the built and the natural environments meet. Although her photographs seem to represent continuous, coherent spaces these settings are actually non-existent—the artist creates them by digitally melding photographs of diverse places. Hayeur is interested in the ways we represent and interpret landscapes, building an awareness of the world or reflecting certain realities. Gradually her images become disconcerting in a way that is hard to pinpoint—something is not quite right in these seemingly normal photographs. Suspended between document and fiction, they become understated enigmas that oscillate between appearing familiar and eerily unusual.
The series Destinations (2003 - 2004) is based on North American tourist attractions and nature preserves, and the images are composed from photographs of places like Cape Cod, the Everglades, and the Mohave Desert. Hayeur combines views of exotic or bucolic locations with more nondescript places and the composite landscapes have a tranquil or even banal quality; they are scenic but not quite sublime, neither overly picturesque nor redolent in their feeling of desolation. In most cases, a wide-open, uninhabited space dominates the foreground and middle-ground of the image, instilling it with a palpable emptiness or giving the impression of suspended time.
Hayeur observes "Tourism conditions the way we look at the land. It is an industry that grows by creating a vast network of privileged and idealized points of view. By placing multiple sites in conjunction with one another, I make this mediated zone tangible." She declines to provide a singular focal point within her panoramic landscapes to anchor our gaze. Instead she uses the dramatic scale and horizontal extension of the frame to set our eyes into motion: since we cannot easily process the image in a single take, we scan it gradually or view it repeatedly from different positions. In the process one is roused to begin noticing subtle contradictions or logical ruptures in the meticously integrated environment. Hayeur relates this process to how we might engage with our increasingly mediated and over-determined world in our daily lives. "We have the privilege of constructing our world," she states, "This is, of course, not a new phenomenon, but we have unprecedented means for achieving these ends… It thus becomes particularly important that we assume responsibility for the landscapes we create and the worlds we imagine."
Isabelle Hayeur completed a BFA in 1996 and an MFA in 2002 at Université du Québec à Montréal. Hayeur has also made videos and in 2001 she began making site-specific and public works as well, with commissions in cities such as Montreal and Groningen, the Netherlands. Hayeur is based in Montreal.