Photographer Brendan Austin’s Paper Mountains are situated on the border of reality and fiction, blurring the lines between photograph and nature. Each mountain is in fact a printed photograph of a mountain, worked and crumpled to replicate the peaks and shadows of the American West Coast, New Zealand , and Iceland. Austin’s mountains, protruding against blank whiteness or extending to the corners of the frame, are simultaneously false images of the landscape and the landscape itself. Existing as both the subject and the means of representing that subject, they question the reliability of the photographic medium to capture truth without contest.
Austin’s stark imagery is devoid of life, its vast empty space creating a sense of unease. With desolate crags and uninhabitable caverns, his mountains question the tenuous ties between nature and human perception. In her seminal work On Photography, theorist Susan Sontag suggested that the danger of the photograph lies in its ability supplant and undermine real life meaning and experience. Is the paper a true, essential mountain because we decide it is so, or is it only a shadow, a ghost of an inhabitable landscape left behind?