SHIRLEY.ANN.TIPPING

PHOTOGRAPHER.WRITER

Artist Statement

Since the autumn of 2001 I have been engaged in an on-going photography project based in the American West. The work spans the mediums of 35mm and medium format film, progressing to digital, utilizing a combination of monochrome and colour images, and originated exploring the ghost towns, old mines, ranch houses and pioneer dwellings of the west’s transient past. Not only their aesthetics, the relationship to the surrounding environment, their history, and abandonment. Over the past decade and a half the work has diversified to form multiple strands. Contained within the portfolios are snapshots portraying the people, landscapes, history, heritage, Americana and movie sets of the iconic American West.

I am drawn by the vastness of the west, the raw beauty, and in contrast what can be seen as a harsh and inhospitable land. The quality of light, the intensity of the desert sun, and the harsh shadows cast on old, gnarled, wooden structures sitting abandoned in the landscape. Amongst the former glory I see a haunting form of beauty, as the ephemeral timber structures collapse back into the land that gave them life.

The photographs capture isolated fragments of history. The timber structures lie dormant to the elements. Some view these remains as a scar on the landscape, others a preservation of heritage. Whatever your inclination, we are left with the question, what role does the past play in the present, and future, of the west?

An aerial perspective is explored in more abstract form. These aeronautical images are map-like, offering sweeping elevated expanses, highlighting the forms and shapes of the natural western terrain, intertwined with the man made scars and human settlements on the land. They showcase otherworldly desert landscapes, and examine mans relationship to the land, the detriments of overpopulation and exploitation, and the questionable inheritance of western wilderness for future generations.

I am interested in what is real and what we perceive to be real, for example, the meeting point of the celluloid and the geographical west. In Hollywood’s depiction of the myth, influencing our romance with the west.

My work at present relates to the western movie sets in existence today. An ongoing book project chronicles the history, the movies made, and the people who have shared that history with the backdrops of the iconic American movie genre. The photographic images show an individuality of character of each movie town. Portraying the illusion of genuine old west towns, their flimsy film architecture betrays their transient nature.

The finished project will culminate in a joint book and exhibition launch.