Icon hang: Amir Zaki

Relics offers an alien vision of curious structures, at first entirely unplaceable. All identifying features and backgrounds have been removed, allowing for a pleasing experience of the uncanny – these objects are familiar yet ultimately foreign.

This photographic series by American artist Amir Zaki depicts the lifeguard towers that dot the beaches of Southern California. His particular effects are achieved through two main techniques: a contextless vantagempoint from below, starkly isolating the towers against the sky; and digital manipulation – stripping away all extraneous aspects such as stairs, ramps or ladders, and intensifying colours, including pairing the towers with skies photographed on a different day to create peculiar lighting effects.

Zaki’s photographic trickery and unexpected viewpoints lend a degree of complexity to his subjects that the casual wanderer would rarely perceive. “This work, although a continuation of my ongoing interest in architectural structures, marks a distinct shift in terms of location,” says Zaki. “I moved away from Los Angeles to a beach community in Orange County three years ago and this has made an important impact on my practice … These are structures and objects that I would see on a daily basis, but not until months passed did I see their potential for my work.” He says his intention was to “subvert the idea of the Southern Californian coast as simply a point of mindless leisure and prettiness”.


This article was published in the May 2010 issue of Icon magazine (www.iconeye.com). To see this article in context, click on the PDF below.

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