When I was in middle school, I visited Yellowstone National Park for the first (and, so far, only) time. Even having grown up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I remember being blown away by all the wildlife my family and I saw. I shot several rolls of film on my little point-and-shoot camera, some of my first. It was a really formative experience for me as a young person interested in animals and photography.

When I saw Corbett Toomsen’s series Trophies, I instantly thought back to that trip, and not only because of the subject matter. The images have a playful and whimsical tone, as if the animals are about to be animated stop-motion-style. They remind me of being a child. The pictures seem unreal, and in a way, they are. The series, and in particular its process, makes me think about what constitutes a “real” experience with animals and nature, both in a country where nature is so controlled and in a time when taking and sharing photos is a way to prove you were indeed somewhere, you did indeed experience it.

From the artist’s statement: We take snapshots of the moments in our lives, and these images have personal value. The cultural value of the snapshot is that, collectively, they serve as a genuine recording of society from within. “Trophies” is my contribution. However, with this work, the photographs do not intend to serve as a recording of society from within, but as a reflection of the ways photography contributes to our experiences today. They investigate the personal process of embarking on a journey through impersonal sources, and represent an abbreviated sampling of a common cultural practice.

Imagery frames our expectations of things. But today, in an image-flooded world, the process of viewing imagery of places has also become a suitable replacement for the actual experience. “Trophies” is a series of constructed snapshots of a journey through the American West, specifically of places I have not visited. The project relies on mass-media imagery, both in print and digital formats. Days spent searching and gathering, one word at a time. And even more days driving on Google Street View, touring the back highways and National Parks fifty yards at a time – click, zoom! Stop!, click, zoom! Stop!, click, zoom! Stop! for hours on end – looking at the scenery the road and the sky. It inspired a search for documentaries about American history and National Parks and made me aware of the television programs I watch, sometimes photographing them to add to the archive. Each day I arrived in my studio, and immediately left – consumed by the familiar imagery of places unfamiliar, gathering as I traveled.

A powerful aspect of travel photography is its inherent ability to urge one ‘to experience,’ firsthand, but more so it urges one to make his/her own copy. From the gathering I re-enact the days traveling, construct places along the journey that I did not experience, rather merely visited; surrounded by sand and rocks and water and paint, surrounded by the tools that carved mountains from plaster, and the tiny paper animals captured along the journey. I am surrounded by artificial trees and die cast metal buses and glue. With flashlights and rags in hand, I am surrounded by the constant whirl of the projector, hunting the ideal image, and the missed opportunities. Within the darkness of my studio, the model lit just right, I transcend, if only for an instance, from this space I occupy to that place locked in the viewfinder, documenting the journey as journeys are so often documented – as a trophy of my experience.

Visit artist's site: corbetttoomsen.com

Found via: Lenscratch