Tim Simmons Altered landscapes
Tim Simmons's photographs belong to the lineage of Edweard Muybridge whose phased pictures of animal locomotion, published in the late 19th century, overturned centuries of naturalistic representation. With this one gesture Muybridge implicated the camera not just with “truth” but also with revelation and the fabulous. Simmons’s photographs, as analogue images - linked to their referents by the agency of optics and chemistry - stand, like Mubridge’s, as documentary evidence. But evidence of what?
Simmons’s carefully composed photographs of places as far flung as Scotland and Los Angeles are sometimes described as “uncanny”. Freud theorised the uncanny as "everything... that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light.” He listed shadows, mirrors and doppelgangers of all sorts as examples of uncanny phenomena. As a type of double, photographs possess an uncanny quality in resembling – yet refusing to embody – familiar things. The subject matter and mode of representation of Simmons’s unsettling images are uncertain: nature seems estranged and unfamiliar, while the images obstinately refuse to declare their ontology or true nature.
The altered landscape as sublime is Simmons’s subject. Our natural point of entry to these images is not via the history of photography or art, but through the portal of special effects film-making and the “inner space” fiction of writers such as J.G. Ballard.
David Brittain is Research Associate at MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University, England