The Print Center

Oliver Curtis

Trained as cinematographer, Oliver Curtis brings his keen, filmic eye to his photographic series “Volte-Face.” From the Latin, by way of Italian and French, the term popularized in English during the early 19th century literally means “turn face.” This is exactly what Curtis did when face-to-face – pun intended – with some of the world’s most famous monuments. Since 2012, he has visited dozens of sites worldwide, purposely avoiding the iconic shots. Standing in front of the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China, Curtis turned his back to them, photographing what one sees looking out from each of these monuments.

In this exhibition, the selection is limited to locations in the United States. The context of “Volte-Face” is critical to each of Curtis’ photographs, which often capture intimate and even mundane moments, like a woman napping on the grass in the shadow of the General Marquis de Lafayette statue behind the White House or the dusty dirt path leading up to the Hollywood sign. They leave the viewer to meditate on the diversity of landscapes around monuments and question their broader signification as socially and politically charged symbols. 

Artist Biography