“We can often find out just as much about ourselves by looking at the environments around us”
Sarah Pannell asks questions with her camera; framing a scene to understand how it came to be; capturing the tension between man and nature. During a period when human activity is restricted worldwide, her series New Harvest resonates strongly. The work, photographed across Europe and the Middle East, depicts enigmatic moments – scenes in which people are absent; their marks on the landscape, however, are centre-stage.
“While I like to photograph people, we can often find out just as much about ourselves by looking at the environments around us,” explains Pannell. “This is one of the things I love most about travelling through different regions; the differences, and more importantly, the similarities in how we as humans exist.”
In one image (above), white pillars extend upwards before wisps of cloud and blue sky. The photograph was taken in Arcadia, a beach town outside of the city centre of Odessa – one of the largest cities in Ukraine — and an infamous party spot for tourists. Pannell stumbled across a beach club called Ibiza: a sprawling space heaving with party-goers during the night; quieter, during the day. “This was a disused area of the club, which I passed as I walked in,” says the Melbourne-based photographer, ”I was drawn to the ad-hoc nature of this scene — the columns and the perfectly serene summer sky in the background”.
Another photograph (below) depicts a fiercely blue, and clouded, vista — a view of the mountain plateau Pokut Yaylası in Rize Province, Turkey, just inland from the black sea. The gentle outlines of mountains are visible through an open window, leading out from a wood-panelled room; a traditional lodging, located at approximately 2,400 metres above sea level, in which Pannell was staying. “This photograph was taken from my bed,” she recounts, “on the final morning of my stay, when I woke up soon after dawn. I’ve always been drawn to flower motifs, and the floral curtains in the room felt so familiar to me.” Pannell’s crinkled orange sheets and lilac bedspread are visible; emblems of her presence within the desolate scene.
The vacant scenes may feel pertinent at a time when desolate metropolis’ and deserted streets are the norms, however, they were originally intended as a means of escape – “I want viewers to look at these images and feel transported; both in time and place,” says Pannell (whose series shot in Iran we featured last year). It is almost as if the photographer is inviting us to step into the vacant scenes; to insert ourselves into these ambiguous moments and experience the colour, patterns, forms, and light ingrained within them.
Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.