The American landscape in the eyes of Christine Francis
America: En Route – when a photographer travels 8,000 miles capturing ‘the vast, seductive, impermanent worlds that make up America’
26 June, 2016
Melbourne based photographer Christine Francis has built a successful profile capturing some of Australia’s finest architecture and interiors. In her first solo exhibition ‘America: En Route’ we see something different; something unique and raw from the artist.
Venturing on a road trip with a Rolleiflex camera in hand, Christine travelled 21 states in just 21 days, covering a total of 8,000 miles. En route Christine began capturing the beauty in the America landscape rather than the end destination itself. It was the in-between; the unknown roadside locations that became the seductive and unique collection of images.
We chat to Christine about her inspiration for the America: En Route series, and her discoveries while crafting the exhibition.
What inspired you to capture the American landscape?
I could foresee continuation—no end on the horizon. I was trying to recreate the depth and sensations you find in nature, being true to the environment.
The idea of the America: En Route exhibition was really about exploring, and putting myself in a position where the medium and location would inspire me. I liked the discipline of crafting the image with minimal intervention, seeking out beauty, where others have overlooked. I was submissive to the elements; waking before sunrise and staying out past sunset to catch the best light.
Whilst taking these photographs I was completely blown away by the diversity of the landscape. The trip was really fluid and I basically planned it as I went along.
I’d speak to locals and work out the next place to go. It was often the places I stopped at along the way, rather than the destinations themselves, that had the greatest impact on me. So, America: En Route became not so much about known landmarks, but the beauty of unknown roadside locations.
You covered a lot of distance, is there a standout moment or favourite spot you came across on your journey?
I was constantly amazed by the landscape and the incredible scale, so it’s really hard to pinpoint any one spot. Often the most beautiful landscapes were discovered along the way.
I think some of the most breathtaking moments were driving in deserts with snow capped mountains in the distance.
How does the American landscape compare to Australia?
Even though we covered a lot of distance, it never felt like we were travelling that far. In America the landscape can changes at any moment very unexpectedly—it made it hard to look away. We travelled through more national parks and state parks than I can count, and saw everything from forests, to peaks of mountain ranges through to beaches in the desert.
Australia has beautiful landscapes, but the scenery and the changes in the landscape seems to be more spread out. What drew me to doing travelling across America was the idealistic notion of the ‘American road trip’, which is very rich in terms of not just natural beauty, but history and culture.
Are you entertaining the idea of similar photography trip to another destination?
This project has inspired me to travel more and document other landscapes much like America: En Route. I can imagine doing so on other continents, but also our own—It’s fun exploring on a grand scale!
I am inspired to find those spots that are often overlooked and capture the beauty of them by shooting in the right moment / time of day, even if it means revisiting the spots or camping out nearby.
It was a truly humbling experience travelling around with my partner and immersing ourselves in nature, realising that we don’t need much to survive and be content.
Your commercial work of build forms and pristine interiors is very different from the raw quality of this exhibition. Where do you draw your inspiration from to expand into other areas?
My inspirations for my personal and commercial work are very much interwoven. Photographic masters of black and white photography such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier Bresson, are a huge inspiration for my work, as well as the photographic mentors I have worked alongside.
The NGV’s Monet’s Garden: The Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris exhibition was very formative for me. What stuck with me was the way impressionists recreated landscapes, and in particular, how Monet interpreted fog, the light—it was glowing.
To draw inspiration, I often refer to Japanese architects and designers for their ability to utilise space so effectively. The natural material, and simple lines and forms that are seen in Scandinavian design has also influenced much of my work.
While I find inspiration from many areas, there’s something about the simplicity of nature that has always captivated my attention. My main source of inspiration is the calmness that occurs when truly immerse myself within nature.
See more of the collection here