This week we talk to French photographer Y. Enö, whose portfolio focussing on some of the residential architecture of Martha’s Vineyard, I recently spotted on the ever brilliant L'Oeil de la Photographie.
Martha’s Vineyard is located off the coast of Massachusetts, South of Cape Cod, and is known as an affluent summer holiday spot. The population of the island expands considerably during the summer months and more than half of the hugely expensive properties are holiday homes, only occupied during the season. I know it best as where Fox Mulder’s parents lived in The X-Files and also as the location for scary Papier-mâché shark attacks in Jaws. It is, however, usually and more universally known as the holiday location of choice for various presidents and celebrities.
So what drew Y. Enö to Martha’s Vineyard in the first place? “What touches me in Martha’s Vineyard is the paradox between roughness and superficiality” says the photographer “I think this is somehow symptomatic of our times. You can eat a sandwich of freshly caught lobster in the morning, served in an aluminium tray on a rusty barrel erected between two boats behind a fisherman’s hut, then later the same afternoon you can be playing golf or spending time at a yacht club. The series of Martha’s Vineyard houses symbolizes this ambivalence. On the one hand they are damaged, built of wood, with peeling paint… On the other hand, they are presented as regalia for their owners, they compete with exuberant colours and forms”
There is a sense of gothic grandeur about these homes which were built in the Carpenter Gothic or Rural Gothic style (also known as ‘Gingerbread Houses’). They are cross between the Adams Family, a gaudy Brighton beach hut and an iced cake. “While photographing them, printing them and putting them out of context, they look (as you suggest) like cupcakes, somehow kitsch” says Y. Enö “They are really genuine small works of art, riddled with humour, neighbourhood discussions, rivalry, love and life”
Y. Enö’s Martha’s Vineyard portfolio images are generally unpeopled, letting the architecture speak for itself “In my architecture reports, I let the script of my visit to take the lead, above the aesthetic of the building and the architect intentions. What matters to me is the stylized perception, the story” says the photographer. Several images outside of the main portfolio, however, do capture residents and visitors to the Island. “This photo for example” says Y. Enö “was also taken during my visit and shows, not only the houses, but two people, three dogs and a tree. I love the wary and quizzical look they are throwing at me, the viewer and photographer. The shadow of the tree, which takes most of the space in the picture has a meaning: it speaks of things upside down. This shadow asks us about what these people think. What is linking them? What do they tell to each other? What are they imagining?”