Kyle Jeffers’ photography documents a landscape of empty highways and shipping containers. The anonymous motels and parking lots in his images suggest a Midwestern sort of suburbia, but Jeffers is actually based in Canada. Shooting mostly in or near Hamilton, Ontario, where he lives, Jeffers records the easily overlooked spaces of Canada’s southernmost region.
Hamilton is a midsize city, surrounded by factories and fields, located not too far from the Michigan border. “I take my camera everywhere I go to try to document everything I see,” says Jeffers. In his digital images, suburban Canada emerges as alternately desolate and unexpectedly colorful. Bursts of vivid color (a red sign, a purple sky, bruised-pink flowers) break up a space otherwise dominated by muddy grass and grey asphalt.
Jeffers’ photos document a landscape that feels distinctly familiar, yet also uncanny. The close-cropped composition of many of his shots gives them an unreal quality. Removed from the context of their surroundings, the streets and houses pictured feel artificial, as if they are inside an amusement park or a film set. The crisp digital quality of the photos only heightens the sense that the suburbia behind Jeffers’ lens does not really exist, that perhaps it is a kind of computer-generated village, cobbled together from the most photogenic bits of suburban neighborhoods all across North America.
In fact, not all of Jeffers’ photos are from the same area—for example, the first image in this article was shot on the east coast of Canada, in New Brunswick. In their eerie uniformity, Jeffers’ photographs work as a kind of visual exploration of non-places. Coined by French anthropologist Marc Augé, “non-place” is a term for spaces defined by anonymity: shopping malls, airports, supermarkets. Like the spaces seen in Jeffers’ work, non-places are sites no one really feels at home in, but simply passes through.