Legend is an ongoing series that draws direct comparisons between cartographic symbols, found in topographic maps, and the real-world features and points of interest they represent. What interests me is how the infinite complexities and variations in landscapes are reproduced as a uniform and repeatable graphic language in maps.

In order to decode the map’s information, symbols are presented with short statements (called a legend, or key) that explain their meaning. Without this system of denotation, many of the symbols become purely abstract.

In this series I remove the explanatory statements, replacing them with photographs of places the symbols refer to, inviting the viewer to decode the meaning through use of a ‘photographic legend’ instead. It’s interesting to consider that the symbols and the photographs are essentially ‘pictures’ of the same thing. But my intention is to not just make a visual comparison between real-life landscapes and their abstract cartographic equivalents; I also want this to be a comparison between the phenomenology of ‘place’ and the abstract geometry of space.

Symbols reproduced from Geoscience Australia’s Symbol Dictionary for Topographic Map Production