Scott McFarland: Poetic Panoramas
Sans souci is a French phrase meaning “without care” or “carefree.” Its utopian intimations have made it a familiar place-name for locales of lavish beauty and civilization-spurning escape. Several years ago, photographer Scott McFarland visited the famed rococo Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany, and, some time later, travelled to the tiny Sans Souci island in Georgian Bay, founded by Samuel de Champlain, and the subject of several paintings by the Group of Seven. Scenes of the island comprise his recent suite of photographs, which showed at Toronto’s Monte Clark Gallery last fall and are now on view at the gallery’s Vancouver location.
McFarland’s landscapes are composites. His technique, inspired by 19th-century photography’s manipulations but executed digitally, involves blending together the same view from different times, and occasionally different seasons. The result is uncanny: two of the show’s large-format images depict the island’s marina in panoramas, which are distinctly flattened and crisply focused. McFarland has created unique editions of these images, with varying cloud patterns. Other work is taken with a pinhole camera, a nod to his interest in nascent photographic practices.
McFarland’s formal approach may suggest a kind of nostalgia or romanticism, but this is tempered by the application of contemporary technology. His pinhole works are ink-jet prints; his panorama composites are made with the aid of Photoshop. This approach is mirrored by what he photographs: places of natural or architectural beauty that are nonetheless populated by ladders, hoses, rotting wood, cheap garden lattices and other tokens of the banal, manufactured present.