In his recent series, Projections, Steve Veilleux creates darkly humorous photographs that expose the artifice behind promotional suburban real estate billboards. Shot entirely at night in Quebec, Canada, his pictures depict details of an absurd suburban landscape, littered with various representations of comically unrealistic class comforts. A young, studio-lit couple smiles while holding their new baby against a bright spring sky; sun rays emanate from a newly (pre) fabricated home; and various other clichés communicate a staged sense of promise and happiness. Upon close examination, it becomes clear that something is off. The images are missing an integral piece to effectively communicating their ultimate sales pitch: text.
Veilleux’s process is critical to exposing the absurdity of the billboards. All images are shot with a 6x7 medium format film camera, at night, with flash that exposes the billboards and foreground, but fades the surrounding areas to pitch black. “By doing so,” writes Veilleux, “I’m placing the viewer in a position where (s)he has to imagine the hidden/ future landscape according to what (s)he sees on the billboards and the foreground. I’m questioning the visual language used by residential and commercial promoters and the impact it has on our perception of the landscape.” Once scanned, Veilleux removes all textual elements in post-production. Using the simple act of text removal, Veilleux drastically tweaks the branding and visual mechanics of the billboards, leaving them to stand as awkward, unfinished canvases in the developing landscape.
Like many photographers working today, Veilleux owes much of his visual thinking to the New Topographics photographers’ methods of coldly serializing the American landscape. However, while photographers like Lewis Baltz and the Bechers may have claimed to present an objective view, Veilleux acknowledges he is more pointed in his process of seeing. “Projections shares many elements with the New Topographics,” writes Veilleux, “except that, contrary to them, my approach is openly very subjective and very manipulative. I’m manipulating images to show you how other images manipulate our perception of the surrounding landscape. And so on…"
Building on that idea, Projections may equally borrow from the subversive, appropriation tendencies of Pictures Generation artists like Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince – with his re-authoring of existing photographs, and Sarah Charlesworth - with his treatment of text. “Of course, when you erase the text of something that's already existing,” writes Veilleux, “there's always a critique of the original piece that occurs."
Bio: Steve Veilleux was born in 1985 in Contrecoeur, a small town in the province of Québec. His photography and video works look at the transformation of the landscape in the region where he was born and also questions the ambiguous nature of the photograph.