Outerland meets Deutschland

Presumably, the portrait on page one of "Outerland" is the photographer herself: a young woman with brunette hair wearing a turquoise science fiction costume of the 1950s. Presumably it is also the photographer who appears in the following pictures again and again in a kind of white space suit: a scientist wandering through eerily empty landscapes, meticulously collecting the data of nowhere. Occasionally, she evokes the pensive, decorative figures of a Caspar David Friedrich painting, only there is no romance here. For the landscapes in the large, new photography book by Allison Davies invite the viewer not to quiet contemplation, but to terror. The photographer has found topographies of wasteland in Iceland and New Mexico, Chile, and Colorado... probably. There is no text in this book. No word on the artist. No information on the parts of the world in which she was traveling. The word "Maybe" shimmers like a watermark on every page. You might think a space probe had radioed the pictures to Earth, they seem so extraterrestrial. Sometimes narrow tracks pass through brown sand and black ash, as if from the tires of a robot vehicle.
The story Allison Davies tells us in Outerland is derived from those end-time allegories that have supplied modern American art with dramatic material for novels, movies, and ballads sad and cruel. It may well be a story fueled by fear of weapons of mass destruction after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Or a meditation on an impending climate catastrophe. But Outerland goes deeper. It asks the question: On the first day after the end of mankind, what will remain?
The chief motive for the journey in Davies' new cycle of photographs is to seek what is coming. And so, despite subliminal feelings of forlornness, curiosity and wonder that suffuse Outerland, there is work to be done. Like the conquering expeditionary photographs of the nineteenth century, we are in alien terrain, free of history, culture and memories. In characteristic style, Davies keeps to spare, sober documentation of vistas bereft of pleasing composition. They do not invite the viewer to feel good. Rather, they espouse a delicate approach to these new lands, and a warning to scan them cautiously. It is indeed a double-bladed invitation. Though there is great danger here in this threatening and inhospitable wasteland - offering scarcely a sign or an omen for the traveler - it may be more fragile than it first appears. What Allison Davies has given us with Outerland is nothing less than an instruction manual for the care and handling of the universe.
by Freddy Langer, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 1, 2010

Buy the book here.