Photographer Chris Engman invites you to enter a world within a world. His photography installation, titled Containment, is an immersive work that features images spanning the walls, ceilings, and floors of a specially constructed room. Upon stepping foot inside the space, you’re transported from a gallery setting to the middle of a bustling stream surrounded by a dense forest with trees cloaking most of the blue sky above.
Containment is Engman’s first foray into work that allows you to physically enter his photographs. But, the idea is something he examined long before then. “I believe photography derives its power precisely from the fact it can’t be entered, however much we may want to,” Engman explains. “When I make photographs I try to be mindful of this, even to exploit it.”
Three hundred prints line Containment. When you stand outside of the space, they appear to be a single landscape that’s plucked from nature and set in a building. Upon entering, however, this illusion is shattered; the vertical planks and peek-a-boo windows warp the image and make the trees, stream, and sky appear unreal.
“Even so, compared to a singular framed photograph the experience of this installation for the viewer is much more physical and immersive” Engman points out. “The structure is a room, not an image of a room. The photograph is an object, in addition to being an illusion. It has weight, and volume, and changes as you walk around it. Making this installation has been a thrilling process, and this new way of working seems to afford many new possibilities.”
If you’d like to experience Engman’s work for yourself, it can be seen as part of the extensive FotoFocus Biennial 2018. The exhibition is Chris Engman: Prospect and Refuge, and it’s at the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio. It will be on view until November 18, 2018.