Photo Opportunities: An Interview with Artist Corinne Vionnet

Corinne Vionnet is a visual artist based in Switzerland. Her work has been exhibited at Jenisch Museum, Vevey, Switzerland; Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona; Les Rencontres d’Arles; Fotomuseum, Antwerp; La Maison Européenne de la photographie, Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; Art Museum, Sion, Switzerland; Chelsea Art Museum, New York and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne.


Corinne Vionnet’s series Photo Opportunities explores our fascination with famous landmarks throughout the world. Through the process of combining hundreds of snapshots of popular tourist destinations, she is able to create a collective impression of how these places are represented, and how we imagine them in our own minds.

These images are made by not one single point of view, but many, and they have the ability to open conversation about how images connect us; and about the ways in which we share thoughts and experiences about common subjects.

Pisa, from the series Photo Opportunities. Corinne Vionnet.

PetaPixel: To begin with, please talk to us about how you first became interested in photography.

Corinne Vionnet: I’m actually more interested in images than photography. Maybe this is because I’ve been nourished by images since before I can remember. Today, I still discover various books, old dictionaries, geographic maps, and old photograph albums that I find at flea markets.  These touch me in many ways.

PP: Your series Photo Opportunities depicts familiar landmarks and tourist attractions. What first inspired you to create this work?

CV: The idea for Photo Opportunities came during a long weekend in Pisa with my husband. During our stay there, we of course went to see the Leaning Tower. There were already many tourists there and many of us were photographing the attraction from the park. The choice of this location was certainly due to the angle of the tower, but also the space that allows us to easily photograph the building in its entirety.

During the hour we were there, I was wondering if all these pictures looked the same. And because there were already many digital cameras in 2005, I was wondering if I could find similar images on the Internet.

That’s my first inspiration about this series. But I’m sure that there is a whole process, experiences and various connections beforehand that have brought me to this.

Stonehenge, from the series Photo Opportunities. Corinne Vionnet.

PP: What were the biggest challenges you faced as you were first getting started with this project?

CV: The idea took some time. I had the motivation and the material, but I didn’t yet know how to express what I wanted with this multitude of similar images. I wanted this work to have a link to classic painting and etching, as they too have contributed to our knowledge of landscapes and monuments. Also, I am cautious about manipulating images, and when I started this project, I was certainly a little worried about this.

Roma, from the series Photo Opportunities. Corinne Vionnet.

PP: How would you describe the message behind your work — that is, the idea you would most like to convey or the story you are trying to tell?

CV: Photo Opportunities tries to speak about our collective memory and the influence of image through films, advertisements, postcards, the Internet, etc. It attempts to raise questions about our motivations to make a photograph and our touristic experience. It tries to speak about our image consumption and how ubiquitous images actually are.

I mainly try to conjure up questions, using my personal story to create these images; however, the perception of images for each of us is different and has its own response.

Mount Rushmore, from the series Photo Opportunities. Corinne Vionnet

PP: What steps are involved in your creative process?

CV: For one image, I was visualizing thousands of shots of the same place on the Internet to see and understand what the most consistent shape of the landmark was. I was collecting different images that I wanted to layer together, each depicting day, night, different seasons, different skies, etc. I used a single focal point to line up the transparencies, and for the rest, whatever happened, happened.

Los Angeles, from the series Photo Opportunities. Corinne Vionnet.

PP: How many individual snapshots might be included in one of your completed images?

CV: I’m not sure exactly. I would say an average of a hundred. It really depends on each image and how the image builds itself as it goes along. There are magic moments during the process of each image.

PP: How do you make the decisions regarding which places to include in this series?

CV: My choice of places was originally based on tourist statistics, and I found myself examining travel agency brochures to know which images symbolized a destination. The selection of places also certainly shows my own visual ideals.

PP: Are there any images which you would like to create, but have so far proven too challenging for one reason or another?

CV: The first two images of this series were Pisa and the Mona Lisa. I never used the Mona Lisa work. I’m not sure about the reasons of this. But these picture sources remained in my computer since 2005 and I should finally create a work for a next project.

Bruxelles, from the series Photo Opportunities. Corinne Vionnet.

PP: Your work has been described as “impressionist”, and some might compare it to the pop art movement as well. Would you agree with these statements?

CV: That’s not my preoccupation.

PP: Are there any contemporary artists who you admire, or who influence your style?

CV: What I see, what I hear, what I read, what I feel — that’s what really influence my work. All is linked, from a reading to a feeling, from a feeling to another feeling, from a work to another, etc.

PP: Out of all the images you have produced so far, have you noticed any that receive more attention, or a bigger emotional response, than the rest?

CV: The Photo Opportunities series has a special response and appropriation. It seems that each person has his/her view on the work, and also his/her favorite image.

Athina, from the series Photo Opportunities. Corinne Vionnet.

PP: Finally, what plans do you have on the horizon over the next few months? New projects, exhibitions, or otherwise?

CV: This second part of the year, I’m concentrating on new works. I finally have time to concentrate on a list of projects I have accumulated over time. I feel like I’m in a laboratory right now! Let’s see what it will give!

Oh, but one news item that I would like to share: The publication of my series “Di Léi” will be released by Fall 2014!