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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Sylvie Bonnot

An inspiring photographer whose work I experienced at Unseen, Amsterdam is Sylvie Bonnot.

Bonnot uses multiple techniques and materials in her work.  These include drawing, 3D elements, painting, etching and working with cellulose and gelatin layers.  In each image, her starting point is the photograph.

Her images caught my eye.  Bonnot was explaining her work to other viewers and I was able to discuss her work with curators from the gallery where her work is currently on display – The Merchant House.

It is evident from many of her images, that Bonnot is attracted to images that depict extremes of weather.  She uses a process she calls “the mue”. What she does is take the exposed gelatin layer off the photographic paper and then fixes this to another medium.  This produces images that have creases and imperfections in the surface.  The results are stunning. The image becomes distorted and deformed.

As well as landscapes and cityscapes, she has also included the image below, which is absolutely stunning and caught my eye from across the space.

As she has developed and perfected this technique, Bonnot’s work has increased in size and this was ecident in the exhibition.

cThe other works that attracted my attention were her arved drawings over the top of photographic paper. Bonnot uses a hot needle to draw the lines onto the images.

I was fortunate that the gallery staff also showed me a carved drawing that had been drawn onto a photograph printed onto an alumininum surface.  The result is that the lines are much finer.


Bonnot’s work is really inspiring to me as she constantly appears to push the boundaries of photography.

“Wandering across a landscape is my way to try to understand and catch its inner qualities, its mysterious oddity, and its intrinsic extra-ordinariness.”

– Bonnot (, 2017)

It was explained to me that once Bonnot has taken the photograph she then analyses the image in terms of how a walker interacts with the landscape and her own reaction to it.  From there she superimposes linear structures on to the images. To my eyes, the lines give a sense of movement through the image and whilst they may appear random, there is a sense that the ‘route’ of the lines obeys some form of logic internal to the image.  I feel the movement.

“Photographing at first is noting, the gesture is quite simple and spontaneous or at least looks like. It fixes the memory, it moors it.

But having more than many of them force you to memorize your on sequence, what and when you saw, you tried, you did, and you felt.

Many months are needed before you can draw the set of images which will meet your sensibility. During these successive readings also arise set of drawings complementary to those sketched in situ.

The lines carve the paper, fondle your sheet; your gesture hunts for restoring your walk, your wait, your watch. Ghosts come to life. With its own means drawing goes along the process of photography. Some forms and lines you noticed and/or photographed are brought back to the surface of the drawing paper. Being on a paper sheet or on the surface of a wall, a drawing tends to conquer the territory on which it is laid out. It’s a pendulum through the appearance of reality you caught off the landscapes and their and your ghosts of memory. What did I do see, what could have seen the other, what will be left?”

– Bonnot (, 2017)

I understand her work.  I hear and feel the dialogue she has created between the landscape and the inner voice of the place.  The inner qualities and nature of the places she has visited are expressed clearly and vividly with her interventions. The journey her work takes me on is somewhat dreamlike; lines and image intertwine; the images become the voice of the earth and our interaction with it. I am excited for my own journey through pbotographic exploration and experimentation.

REFERENCES (2017). sylvie bonnot. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2017].

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