Scarlett Hooft Graafland is a Dutch photographer who fuses unyielding environments with playful set-ups. Educated at The Hague’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Scarlett has gone on to produce her unique work in Madagascar, arctic Canada and rural China. However, it is her Bolivian landscape series which most dramatically shows off her flair for brightening up hostile environments. South American salt flats have been immortalized by thousands of tourists photographing themselves, using the unique perspective of the never-ending landscape. Scarlett takes this one step further, fusing photography, sculpture and performance art to create dream-like pieces.
Scarlett’s work could almost literally be split into two sections; one which documents the environment itself, and one which captures her colourful staged details. Scarlett uses harsh landscapes as her canvas and inspiration, juxtaposing them against the surreal situations she creates. Although her props are the focal point of her photographs, they are minute when compared to the vast surroundings. Scarlett has a real respect for the land she works with and is careful that her props are transient and do not disturb the environment. The hostile landscapes mean that Scarlett is very appreciative of help from local people in staging her photographs. She takes a great interest in these local communities, and many of her ideas are inspired by local mythology.
Scarlett embellishes her harsh backdrops with fantastic and irrational performances. She is motivated by “magical realism” and “the wonder of creating situations that have never existed before and will probably never exist again.” One of her most dramatic creations is Vanishing Traces, 2007, homage to Robert Smithson’s 1970 Spiral Jetty. It consists of balloons floating in Bolivia’s Laguna Colorada, where Smithson had originally wanted to install his jetty but failed to do so because of the remoteness of the location. Vanishing Traces demonstrates the timelessness of the landscape, which is still almost inhospitable forty years into the future.
Hooft Graafland’s juxtaposition of childlike installations and unforgiving environments has attracted global appeal. Her round-the-world pursuits of photography have translated into exhibitions at diverse and prestigious locations. The Museum for Photography, Seoul; Michael Hoppen Contemporary Gallery, London; Museo Nacional de Arte, Bolivia; Weizmann Institute, Israel- Scarlett’s work has been exhibited world-wide. In order to bring her travels into peoples’ homes, her published books include: Unlikely Landscape (2014), Soft Horizons (2012), Graafland in Altiplano (2012). Although her sculpture and performances may be fleeting, Hooft Graafland’s fusion of photography promises to remain internationally popular for a long time to come.