The Design Observer Group

Posted 03.17.11

John Mann

Folded in Place

Untitled (Moskva).

At the end of a long trip through the Appalachian Mountains a few years ago, I searched the map for a route home. But I was immediately let down; the map made it plain: there simply wasn't enough time to visit all the places that I wanted to see.

Folded in Place investigates places to which I have never traveled, but wish to engage, even explore, through photography.  


The map of the Appalachians, for instance, suggested a possibility. Studying it, tracing the graphic depiction of highways and mountain ranges, I imagined that I was looking at the actual places from a bird’s-eye view. This perception — the sense of scanning the surface of the earth from above — was liberating. I returned to the studio to see how the camera could amplify that vantage point.

While a mapped image represents a legible landscape, it does so by deploying an abstracted system of lines, color and text. In the studio I began to deconstruct various maps, and to reconstruct fragments, all in an effort to redefine places I didn't (yet) know first-hand. The resulting constructions use elements of sculpture, drawing and mapping to further abstract the mapped landscapes. But these constructions were made for only the camera to see first-hand, using a single vantage point that could mimic the aerial or distanced view. Considerations of color, sculptural form and context further spurred my experimentation.

The resulting images do provide precise photographic and mapped information; but at the same time they present abstractions of landscapes that are simultaneously understood and unknown — landscapes where the map obtains a new geography of its own.