Catherine Hyland explores Austria

For many, mention of Austria brings to mind images of soaring, snow-capped peaks. Its picture-postcard landscapes have long been a symbol of the country in popular culture, politics and art. But, creatively, its striking scenery presents a challenge; what do you photograph when everything is so beautiful?

The project

Studio 1854 collaborated with the Austrian National Tourist Office to launch an open call inviting photographers to submit project ideas for a one-week trip. Catherine Hyland was selected; she journeyed from the Bregenzerwald, in the westernmost state of Vorarlberg, to the city of Linz in Upper Austria. Confronted by the overwhelming beauty of the Austrian landscape, Hyland honed in on the dynamic of chaos and control between nature and humanity, which she observed across the country. She was accompanied by Studio 1854 writer Hannah Abel-Hirsch who shadowed her for the duration of the trip. 

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© Catherine Hyland

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© Catherine Hyland

“I never want to take pictures that are what people expect. The whole point of a good picture is that it should be ambiguous in order to make people ask questions about it” — Catherine Hyland

The trip

Hyland began her trip in the Bregenzerwald. The network of roads weaving their way through the region initially presented a challenge. However, surveying the region from above allowed her to escape any restriction on her understanding of the landscape below.  For the second part of the trip, Hyland travelled to the city of Linz. Similar to the photographs taken in the Bregenzerwald, in which the photographer sought out points of contrast in the overwhelmingly picturesque scenery, here, she scanned the lazing crowds for the unusual and unexpected.

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© Catherine Hyland

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© Catherine Hyland

Bregenzerwald

Catherine Hyland is standing atop the Baumgarten mountain station, 2000 meters up. From here, a panoramic view of the Bregenzerwald, a region in the westernmost Austrian state of Vorarlberg, stretches out beneath her. To the north and east, the landscape is softer; the area’s 22 villages sit amongst verdant valleys and undulating hills. To the south and west, the view intensifies, with stretches of dense forest slowly giving way to soaring, jagged peaks flecked in snow.  

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Linz

Arriving in Linz, Catherine Hyland is immediately drawn to the Danube River. Its sparkling waters weave through the city’s centre and today they are awash with people relaxing in the early evening sun. Hyland soon spots a small stretch of beach that is particularly crowded. On venturing down to the shoreline she encounters Andres Schober, a resident of a historic fisherman’s town in the nearby Alt-Urfahr district. Schober – a masseur, who moved to Linz from Hamburg 28 years ago – is, at first, taken aback.

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The exhibition

Hyland’s commission was accompanied by an exhibition at Photo London 2018. The 2018 Pavillion Commission showcased the work of five contemporary Austrian photographers – Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek, Stefanie Moshammer, Hanna Putz, Klaus Pichler and Thomas Albdorf. The projects on show all respond to Austria differently. Together they offered an alternative representation of the country from the perspectives of a group of artists living and working there.

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© Stefanie Moshammer

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© Stefanie Moshammer

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© Stefanie Moshammer

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© Stefanie Moshammer

“To me, Austria is a brutal cosiness, which carries the innocence of memories in it. The past, a melancholic companion of the present. The existing, a filtered appearance. A place where the unspoken is directing. My secret love affair, I’m never completely satisfied with, still can’t leave, always teasing – never fully staying, but always returning” — Stefanie Moshammer

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