Grand Canyon: Unseen

Text by Marsha Taichman

Holly King’s photographs draw from memories of landscapes, and reference film, art and literature. Her images are cinematic and striking, seemingly real and other-worldly. She painstakingly constructs these scenes with miniatures and then takes photographs of them in large-format, which she then exhibits. King claims that the actual sets are very humble, and the process of photographing these sets transforms them into artworks, although I believe that the sets themselves may be sights to be seen.

In 2005, King moved from working with color photography to black and white. The objects contained in these photographs (the trees, stones, water and brush) are detailed rather than creating atmospheric scapes that were ethereal and less linked to actual inhabitable spaces, as she has in earlier works. With this most recent series, Grand Canyon: Unseen, King tackles the monumental cleft in the Arizona desert that has captivated tourists and writers alike for so many years. King takes a place that has been photographed, documented, discussed and memorialized and manages to create novel images, which is no small feat. For the first time in her oeuvre, she combines photographs of the land with her set ups, and additionally integrates black ink drawings. She suspends transparent images of the Grand Canyon behind the sets, and places miniatures in both the foreground and behind the transparencies. Her prints are reflective, luminous, pensive terrains of rock, earth and sky.

It has been said that the size of King’s prints allows people to enter the unreal places that she creates. I think that viewers are only allowed to step to the precipice of these landscapes, see their tiny details and be overwhelmed by their heights, but then they are held back. They must stop to think about what they see. The power of these images lies in the fact that they warrant a second look, and a third. They are the type of photographs that I want to try to enter over and over because of where I could be transported were I to enter.