arts

Eerie photographs envisage towns made only of facades

Updated 6th August 2018
Eerie photographs envisage towns made only of facades
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
Voice Memo is a series of phone conversations between CNN Style journalists and image-makers around the world. Click here for more.
Reduced to just their facades, the otherwise unremarkable buildings in Zacharie Gaudrillot-Roy's photographs take on a surreal new quality. The eerie, sparsely populated pictures appear to play into the French photographer's self-professed aim of creating "confusion between fiction and reality."
Gaudrillot-Roy has spent almost a decade producing the digitally manipulated images as part of his ongoing series, "Façades." But while his focus on frontages can be interpreted as a commentary on architecture, he instead wants viewers to share his curiosity about what might lie behind.
"My feeling is like (that of being) a spectator," he said in a phone interview, "as if I was wandering in a city that I could know. But it's not real, as if I was a stranger."
The result is an almost dystopian vision of urban and suburban scenes -- fictional structures reminiscent of Russia's "Potemkin villages," or fake settlements, that were designed to give the illusion of life and prosperity.
The result is an almost dystopian vision of urban and suburban scenes -- fictional structures reminiscent of Russia's "Potemkin villages," or fake settlements, that were designed to give the illusion of life and prosperity. Credit: Zacharie Gaudrillot Roy
"Most of the time, you don't go into buildings that you don't know, You don't speak to people you don't know," he added.
Gaudrillot-Roy's creative process begins simply enough: wandering the streets in search of structures that capture his imagination. Having photographed the buildings from a variety of angles, he then uses image manipulation software to erase their volumes and digitally extend the backdrops behind.
The result is an almost dystopian vision of urban and suburban scenes -- fictional structures reminiscent of Russia's "Potemkin villages," or fake settlements, that were designed to give the illusion of life and prosperity. By night, when street lamps bathe the flat facades in artificial light, Gaudrillot-Roy's structures come to resemble theater props or an abandoned movie set.
Gaudrillot-Roy's creative process begins simply enough: wandering the streets in search of structures that capture his imagination.
Gaudrillot-Roy's creative process begins simply enough: wandering the streets in search of structures that capture his imagination. Credit: Zacharie Gaudrillot Roy
"I'm really influenced by cinema," he said, admitting that this connection to film was, at first, a happy accident. "I was not thinking about (this) at the beginning, but now that's why I take pictures by night."
Most of the images were taken in the 32-year-old photographer's home city of Lyon, south eastern France, where he co-founded the photography gallery and workshop L'Abat-Jour (or "The Lampshade").
Others were shot in Montreal, Canada, or around the Swiss town of Porrentruy, where he recently completed an artist residency.
Gaudrillot-Roy has created around 30 of the images to date, and hopes to expand the series with images of Lithuania's second-largest city, Kaunas.
"(This project is about saying) let's be curious -- we can imagine what could be behind those buildings," he said, adding: "It's our mind that builds something."