Mandy Williams is a visual artist working primarily in photography and video. Her work covers range of subjects, but centers around the theme of the social dynamics arising from contemporary culture – particularly how personal identity is affected by environment and how our social and affective lives interconnect. This interest in the psychology of place has been a catalyst for both autobiographical and voyeuristic projects, documentary approaches to more conceptual ones. Much of her photographic and video works highlight the domestic environment, although some refer more broadly to place and sites in transition.
Her recent series share an underlying narrative about human interaction or presence. Some of these include Unseen Landscapes (2012-15), which use Google Street View as a starting point to create somewhere otherworldly, and Riverbed Stories (2012-15), photography and video documenting polluted river beds in South East London.
Both ‘Unseen Landscapes’ and ‘Riverbed Stories’ stem from the idea of contemporary landscape. The detachment is undeniable in how people interact with the landscape, whether it is by remote observation, or utter disregard. A roadside natural setting is disrupted by castoff personal items such as mattresses, chairs, gloves, floating shoes and discarded baby carriages. The images point to the pollution of the natural setting, and also to a sense of detachment to nature by the people who thoughtlessly threw these items away. Williams depicts these items in the water and weeds with a sensibility toward the loss of both the intimate history of the items, as well as the lost natural beauty of the English landscape she documents.
In the same sense, the detachment from nature in ‘Unseen Landscapes’ starts right at the moment the images are made. These landscape images captured by Google Street view are made without bias, without thoughtful intent. The images are made by an unblinking eye traveling the land. Williams presents her versions of these images as soft, monochromatic toned views. She has used images from this archive to present scenes that she herself has never seen in person, nor visited. Visually, the presentation of the images in a circular format references (intentionally or not) the early photographic prints made by the Kodak No. 1 camera. This makes for an interesting visual homage to one of the earliest commercial photo products (You press the button, and we do the rest) while appropriating images from one of the largest publicly available digital image databases in the world. So much of the world we experience online is via digital captures made half a world away; one has to wonder if ‘Unseen Landscapes’ is a commentary on the subject, or a reflection of it. Either way, Williams has created beautifully crafted portraits of the land which also prompt the viewer to think about their own interaction and connection with the world around them.
To view the projects, or see Mandy Williams’ work, click here. Images shown are © Mandy Williams.
Mandy Williams is a photographer living in London, UK. She previously lived in Vancouver, Canada, but has since returned to her home country of England in 2002 and has been contributing to different exhibitions and publications in the UK, and internationally in exhibits and in publications.