Dafna Talmor’s Constructed Landscapes are the end result of many years of frustration caused by her own photographs. The images are taken in different countries, among which are Israel, Venezuela, the UK and the United States, but their initial purpose was nothing more than personal keepsakes. As Talmor accumulated a large archive, she became increasingly conscious that the photographs don’t show much about the places that they depict and they are just that — pictures of places she once visited. She decided to use them as her source material instead of photographs in their own right in order to create something new and this is how her ongoing series was born.
The original photographs were shot on medium format film and Talmor performed the unthinkable. She sliced them to pieces. Incision after incision, it became increasingly obvious that she was onto something exciting as the possibilities were endless. She could combine places thousands of miles apart on the same surface and construct her own imaginary land. The images are the product of laborious and painstaking collaging techniques that Talmor executes herself and then enlarges the newly created negative in the darkroom. Conceptually speaking, there is so much to unpack when talking about Constructed Landscapes, but one possible way of interpreting it is that we as humans, our brains and our vision never interpret reality in a linear fashion the way it is portrayed in pictures. We perceive slices of information coming at us all at once from different sources and our brain does a wonderfully complex and seamless job at stitching them together. Firmly positioned in the context of the history of photography, the project references both the processes of combination printing developed and utilised by the Pictorialists as well as experimental techniques like collage and multiple exposure used predominantly by the Modernists. Talmor explains that the resulting photographs are “a conflation, ‘real’ yet virtual and imaginary. This conflation aims to transform a specific place — initially loaded with personal meaning, memories and connotations — into a space of greater universality.”
Most of the photographs unabashedly show their imperfections — we can see where the negatives are overlayed and also the artist’s pen marks outlining where to make the incisions, both resulting in what resembles scorching fire burns. The trace of the artist’s hand and the handmade feel gives the project a sense of personal touch. Constructed Landscapes could be interpreted as documenting the sense of belonging and identity through disjointedness — nothing is as clear cut as a single picture and its inability to demonstrate something as complex as the character of a place would have us think. Dafna Talmor’s project demonstrates that photographic equipment and even the act of taking a picture might be largely irrelevant as the postproduction process in the darkroom is where the real magic happens.
— foreword by Zak R. Dimitrov