“All voluntary travel is characterized by longing for some elusive element that lies out of reach in daily life.” –Lucy Lippard, On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place
In her Off Road series, photographer Hoor Al Qasimi (Emirati, b. 1980) adopts travel as her subject matter. These images speak of physical displacement, of removing oneself from one’s customary environment, of seeking insight by looking beyond the obvious well-worn path and gazing to the territory that lies beyond. The landscapes documented by these photographs consist of everything that was visible to Al Qasimi from the highway during a trip across the US; yet the title, Off Road, suggests a fascination with the terrain invisible from the vantage point of the vehicle. Which stunning vistas might have been captured had the artist ventured beyond the familiarity of the highway?
In these landscape photographs mood is conveyed by weather as the skies shift from bright and sunny, to gloomy and overcast, to blustery and dark. Telephone poles, road markers, and fences define boundaries and mark the presence of civilization, alluding to land ownership, government presence, and communications systems. The ploughed fields and farmland which appear early in the “journey” are quickly replaced by vast plains, towering buttes, and arid desert. Moving through space, traveling down the “open road,” serves as a metaphor for emotional passage.
The final image in the series, a side-view mirror of the vehicle offering a reflected glimpse of the artist’s hand grasping the camera,recalls photographer Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934) and his America by Car series.