Horacio Devoto


Photographer and filmmaker Horacio Devoto was born in Concepcion del Uruguay, Argentina, and is now based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended the University of California at Santa Cruz and graduated from the University of Minnesota. His photographic series “Landoramas” is a combination of large-format photographs taken in the Western United States, fused together with painted scenes acting as backdrops.

Within these theatrical stages, animals are often caught in a fleeting moment, or appear stranded in their unnatural environment. The project is the culmination of work he started ten years ago when he traveled around the country shooting large-format landscape negatives.   

As a photographer, I was always looking for the perfect landscape. But the real world didn’t cooperate. So I decided to create landscapes by combining what I could capture with my camera with elements from the existing world of art.

Can you tell us about your influences, and what drives your artistic process?

I was pretty new to the U.S. and living in California when I had my first exposure to “fine art photographs.” I was really taken with the work of landscape photographers like Richard Misrach, Peter Goin and Mark Klett. Their work had a profound impact on my perception of what photography can stimulate in the viewer’s mind. Misrach, especially, was an important influence. His large prints pushed me to look at the environment around me in ways I had never before. I then set on a mission to get a large format camera and drive around the country looking for that perfect combination of light, landscape and the constant reminder of people’s presence.

It was the digital revolution and the work of photographers like Andreas Gursky that led me to rethink my approach to landscape photography. Tired of driving, motels and fast food, waiting for the perfect moment became less interesting. I came to realize that what I was looking for simply did not exist, and I became more interested in creating the environments I imagined. For me, photographs started to become more like a theater set where I was in charge of the environment and had the freedom to create, not just document.

“Landoramas” seem to fall in limbo between fantasy and reality, almost like bizarre museum dioramas. Animals have a strong, fleeting, presence in the work, but they are also displaced in unnatural settings. Do you think your work raises issues of the changing environment, and the animal’s place within it? 

We are all caught living in a world where what we see today could change dramatically in the very near future. With the substantial environmental changes we are experiencing (and causing), the normal of today could be the near future’s strange and remote. The sense of misplacement of animals and objects in this series reflects that perception of a changing environment. It is my hope that the viewer will have the sense of disorientation similar to what one experiences looking at a museum diorama containing things that no longer exist. 

How do you see your work developing over the coming years, or which direction do you want to explore?

I am interested in exploring collaborations with artists working in other areas. One idea I have explored is working with a writer to create combined visual and written narratives. I also hope to work more closely with natural history museums, as access to the collections of these museums would allow me to create more layered and realistic (but also fantastical) pieces.        

My hope is that, for the viewer, the line between real and not real isn’t important or immediately obvious. The experience is the image — sometimes real, sometimes fake, hopefully always a little confusing.

Finally, what do you dream of?

Brigitte Bardot and tsunamis – generally not at the same time.

Berlin, Bears and Refugees