Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2012: Frank Hallam Day „Alumascapes“

Frank Hallam Day – Alumascapes, 2012

Strange objects in the dark of the night: in this series, the winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2012 observes Americans seeking to escape everyday life in their recreational vehicles (RVs). The American photographer has placed the vacation vehicles themselves at the centre of his series – they appear strange and randomly placed, yet also eerie and mysterious.

This photographic project shows the results of a month-long journey through Florida. In his images, Frank Hallam Day depicts the phenomenon of man and his environment in a unique manner, and makes RVs– ultra-modern, high-tech and luxury homes on wheels – the brightly lit and dazzling stars of his pictures. They seem to be inextricably entwined in the jungle landscapes of Florida at night, and appear as essential islands of security in a dark and hostile environment. They protect their owners with a feeling of safety and comfort in the lap of luxury. Of course, this no longer has much to do with the love of nature, relinquishing everyday luxuries or winding down.

“These RVs crouch in the jungle like Henri Rousseau’s animals recast for a mechanical age. They brand themselves with labels asserting a desired yet ironically thwarted relationship with nature: Escaper, Sunset Trail, Wilderness. But they suggest isolation from a threatening natural world, as well as from humanity itself.”

With intense lighting and specific colours, the contradiction becomes even more evident. In a setting somewhere between reality and fantasy, the RVs almost look like steel insects, with bright eyes illuminating the night sky. This is further emphasised by the double-edged title of his portfolio. On the one hand, the word Alumascape is the brand name of an RV model that is seen in several of his images, on the other hand, “Alumascapes” is used by the photographer to describe landscapes dominated by vehicles made of aluminium. Other models shown in his work bear names with similar connotations, like Wilderness, Mountaineer, Escaper, Cougar and Falcon. In their inference of a certain closeness to and simultaneous alienation from the world of nature, they too are characteristic of the paradoxical relationship between modern man and the environment. And this is precisely what the photographer reveals in his images: the brightly lit mobile homes cower and are hidden among the trees. The mood is gloomy and grim, and communicates a feeling of escape, furtiveness, isolation and fear. “The RVs sing the night song of the American dream, all the while spilling a toxic light into the jungle,” Day explains.

“These photographs are overtly theatrical; the foliage surrounding the vehicles resembles scenery props. The images are intended to look staged, almost dreamlike, half-way between fantasy and reality. But they are not staged.”

The residents of the vehicles are never seen – they knew nothing of the presence of the photographer. This is because they are sitting safe and sound, generally watching TV, in the bright and air-conditioned security of their luxurious home away from home – believing they are in perfect harmony with the natural world around them. Day’s images reveal that the relationship between man and the environment is more ambiguous than ever before.

(Text updated 2020)

Frank Hallam Day

Born in 1948, Day lives and works in Washington D.C. He has been active as a photographer for many years and has taught photography at various institutions. His work has been shown in many international exhibitions and is found in numerous museums and private collections. His winning series was published as a book in 2012, under the title “Nocturnal”.

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