Urban Wilderness + Man-made Nature is a collaborative project by Virginie Kippelen and Shannon Davis which looks at nature through two opposite lenses: one is “urban wilderness,” and explores the experience of nature redefined by human proximity. The other presents “man-made nature,” and how nature is manipulated by man in order to co-exist.—Shannon Davis and Virginie Kipelen
We use a diptych format, pairing two 30”x30” images on a single, vertically-oriented canvas, with the goal of offering a reflection of the conflicting forces between man and nature.
In the man-made nature images, Shannon canvases the city looking for areas that are in various states of change brought on by demolition and development. The transformation of these spaces features all the natural elements of dirt, trees, rock and light, but they embody a rigid control under the hand of man.
Systematically, nature is taken down to a clean slate that is often left visceral in its transitory state. There is irony in the way she chooses her subjects as well as conscious awareness to capture these new landscapes, as if they were as beautiful as a travel postcard that might feature a mountain or a redwood.
Shannon explores the most immediate natural terrain in her everyday life and looks at it not with commendation toward change, but frames the sublime paradox created by man’s progress.
In the urban wilderness images, Virginie explores pockets of wilderness that are still to be found in metro Atlanta. Urban wilderness might be an oxymoron, since the very notion of wilderness contradicts that of urbanity. However parks and green space are what are left to the growing number of people living in the city to experience nature. They are not pristine, untouched natural places but fragile ecosystems that come to coexist with human activity. In her eyes, these places are intrinsically interesting and deserve as much attention as any wilderness areas. Her goal is to reflect the changing landscape of a city while stressing the ecological and cultural importance of preserving this new wild.
We shot our images independently, but with the intention to create photographs that would respond to one another. When we paired them we looked for similarities and differences, paying attention to details in composition, light and color.
Virginie Kippelen is an editorial and fine art photographer. Formally trained as a print journalist (MA in Journalism from the University of Arizona, 1993), she came to photography late in life. She did not grow up reading issues of National Geographic, nor did she start taking photography with a Brownie camera at age 5. Photography came to her as a sort of epiphany, a late realization that she could express herself and understand the world we live in through image making.
For the last five years she has worked as a multimedia producer and photographer for editorial and commercial clients. She worked as an associate producer at CNN.com and has freelanced for The New York Times in Atlanta and the southeast region. She writes about photography for well-respected local and international publications.
Fine art photography is part of her personal pursuit to fulfill her creative vision and to craft images that explore issues relevant to our society.
Shannon Davis began her visual career as a creative director, launching the channel TCM-Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. She went on to brand the channel in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Poland. She has been recognized with numerous international awards for her innovative visual approaches and unique creative concepts and is featured in the book On Screen / In Time. Shannon also directed the documentary Edge of Outside, which compares the struggle modern and classic independent filmmakers experienced making their films.
Immersion in the classic film libraries, most notably those of Warner Bros. and MGM, as well as those in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, have shaped her aesthetic and approach to photography. With an instinctive pull toward the common man, the forgotten and overlooked, all of her photo series explore a sense of place. They share the conceptual thread of looking at how we identify where we are and where we are going.
This is her eighth year as an adjunct professor at Savannah College of Art and Design in the Motion Media Department.