Show Caves by Austin Irving

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Austin Irving is a photographer who completed her studies in New York, and has since shown her work across the United States, in Europe, and in Asia. She has two distinct strands of practice — commercial and fine art. It is always interesting to compare how the two intermingle and influence one-another, which is bound to happen at some points. In her fine art work, Irving has a sophisticated sense for colour and atmosphere. She is repeatedly concerned with themes that explore artificiality, illusion, and liminal spaces. Her long exposure shots are rich in detail, crisp edges, neon glows.

Irving’s photographic series Show Caves is a couple of years old now, but it has recently drawn my attention. The first image in the series is particularly compelling. This huge cave, complete with winding stone path, drive-way lights, and kitsch penguin shaped rubbish bins looks like a movie set from The Labyrinth, or at least 80s era fantasy films. In reality, this is a photo of a tourist destination in Vietnam — the Dau Go Cave. The series featured other caves from around the world, that have been transformed into showrooms of the underground. Irving’s photographs capture awkward meeting points between natural formations and human interventions, put in place for reasons of safety and comfort. The shots are always free of people, but full of evidence that demonstrates the monuments we leave in our wake. A light is always shining, either illuminating a particular feature, or beckoning from the other side of a threshold. Eerie, mysterious, and full of suspense. Show Caves is a compelling exploration of the repercussions of the tourism industry, and the changes we bring to natural landscapes in order to make them viewable by many. Find the full series here, and be sure to check out the rest of Austin Irving’s work too. Her commercial site can be accessed here.