Last year while traveling in Colombia, I was on a bus going from Medellin to Bogota a journey which like many in Colombia, seems short distance map-wise but turns out to be an all-day journey on twisting roads over a dense mountain landscape. As we ascended out of the Magdalena river valley the twin volcanos of Nevado Ruiz and Nevado Tolima were visible to the west. It seemed amazing that my eyes could be beholding 17,000 vertical feet in one scene, but there it was.
Camilo Echavarria’s series Paisajes Ilustrados (illustrated landscapes) documents the bewildering variety , complexity and sheer beauty of Colombia’s landscape. It also interrogates the idea landscape being a human construction both in terms of our modifications of the landscape but in also how we choose to represent it (I’m paraphrasing from the artist’s statement). I stared at the first image a good long time entranced, not realizing the impossibility of the view. Echavarria subtly composites some, but not all, of the photographs to create views of (literally) impossible beauty, leading the viewer to question the idea of landscape itself.