The work I have pursued in the last 15 years has centered
around the investigation of our dichotomous relationship with
nature. The images, taken in domestic gardens and areas
designated as “nature reserves,� have often been large-
scale close-up photographs of organic subjects that are meant
to both invite and repel the viewer. Photographs are capable of
engaging the viewer both intellectually and physically, and to
this end I frame my images without mats to better enable the
viewer to interact with, and be drawn into the scene. I use
limited depth of field and selective focus as “psychological
triggers� to evoke the small and often terrible dramas that
that occur beneath our feet and just outside our scope of
vision.  In some of the work I am inspired by the ideas of the â
€œSublimeâ€� considered by Romantic painters of the 19th
century -- however it is a secular sense of the beautiful and the
terrible that I try to evoke in the photographs.  Bodies of work
in this series have included Edenic Fictions/Insidious Realities
and Imagining Wilderness.

With these images I try to subvert the boundary between
reality and fiction. The photographs are not a substitute for a
real encounter with the wilderness, but are merely
representations that, like our experiences, are culturally
affected.  My hope is to render the mysterious beauty that is
created through the collaboration between optical and physical â
€œrealities.â€� Inherent in these photographs is also a critique
of traditional representations of nature. They are meant to run
counter to “Sierra Club� calendar images that transform
nature into safe, accessible consumer products. The way we
think about nature is mediated by commercial and literary
representations, and I am interested in communicating the
tension that the camera creates between our perception of the
natural world, and our interpretation of it.

Other past projects have included work with video, a webcam
project and experiments with a digital QX3
microscope/camera.  My work in video is an extension of my
work in still photography, but creates a real-time experience in
which the viewer is moved through a dimensional space.
Similarly, the goal is to create an experience in which the
mysteries of the garden are heightened. In the QX3 project,
made with a digital toy microscope that captures images in 10x,
60x and 200x onto a computer -- I move deeper into places we
cannot ordinarily visit. Although the microcosm has already been
made familiar to us through photomacography, the idiosyncratic
qualities of the QX3 technology transforms rational documents
into worlds of wonder.  Another recent project involves the use
of a webcam in my garden.  The camera documents the progress
of my garden as it grows through the seasons.  Brought visually
closer through technology in these projects, we are still
separated from the “natural� world by many layers that
include the unique qualities that optics bring to bear on a scene
and the effects of the translation of visual matter from analog
to digital, and back again in the final print. The vagaries of this
low-resolution technology – the color shifts, blurs and
pixellation – comprise part of the work’s meaning as a
metaphor for our continued and growing separation from nature
and our reliance on, as Baudrillard’s prescient words have
aptly described our world today, “the precession of the
simulacra.�
Artist Statement
Olivia Lahs-Gonzales