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Landscape Photography In The Age Of Airbrushing

Benoit Paille is a portraitist. “I hate landscape,” says the photographer, who has built a career pursuing human subjects. Paille’s remarkable portraits of attendees at an alternative lifestyle festival called the Rainbow Gathering have been published widely, and The Stranger Project[/i], 220 portraits of complete strangers, will soon be made into a book.

His disdain for the genre makes his landscape photography that much more interesting. Paille creates what he calls alternative landscapes: photographs of nature that show obvious evidence of human manipulation.

In one series, called Light Experimentations, Paille traveled to the far north of Québec to the remote Inuit village of Umiujaq on the Hudson Bay. Using props and artificial light sources (like Christmas lights), Paille shot long-exposure night photographs with a Canon 5D. Back in the studio, he digitally massaged each image in Photoshop until they looked, as many have remarked, realer than real. “I created a poetic-space and time in the middle of nowhere,” comments Paille.

In another series, UnderNight, Paille paints melancholy urban scenes populated by a single person, bathed in an otherworldly neon glow. Each image is the result of copious digital manipulation, and in a way, they’re more like illustrations than photographs.

By applying commercial photography techniques to classical landscape compositions, Paille creates photos that are both heavily artificial and weirdly magical. “I love to invade the photos with my presence, thanks to Photoshop. Truth and falsehood are concepts with which I like to play,” the Québec-born artist told a French photography blog last year. “I’m a big liar. The truth is for idiots!”

[Images courtesy of Benoit Paille]

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