Aeterna 8 ©Alix Smith

Aeterna is a photographic landscape project that draws its inspiration from Edmund Burke’s theory of the “Sublime” and the Jungian archetype of the Puer Aeternus (eternal child).

The eternal child is full of unbounded instinct and whimsy. Not confined to mere playfulness, this archetype offers the potential for growth, adventure, and hope for the future at the same time as it threatens to veer into chaos, disorder and danger.

Terror is essential to the experience of nature as sublime; nature is vast and powerful, inspiring both fear and awe. This intermingling of pleasure and terror, wonderment and foreboding that creates the sublime is also present in the experience of childhood – especially when viewed from the vantage point of adulthood. Children are wonderfully naive, unaware of the dangers that surround them, partaking in nature without truly understanding its danger and power.

The figures in Aeterna are dwarfed by the landscape that surrounds them, highlighting not only the children’s vulnerability, but also the sense of freedom and independence within these vast natural spaces. It is the anticipation of terror that makes these imagined scenes sublime. There is a heightened anxiety as the viewer attempts to imagine what would happen next. If the camera shutter captured only one tiny moment in this story, what occurred after the shutter closed?



Alix Smith lives and works in New York City.  She graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a Masters in Photography and Related Media in 2005, and has been exhibited internationally. Smith first attracted critical attention with her project Constructed Identities.  In a full page, article on the project, the New York Times described, “the modulated, lighting and elegant surroundings that recall traditional painted portraits.“  Art Review Magazine named Smith as one of the best new voices in photography, and New Yorker critic Vince Aletti praised the work as “gently subversive and brilliantly layered.”
For her project States of Union, which explored themes of identity, family, and sexual orientation, Smith received fiscal sponsorship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She was awarded the Stonewall honor for the project by the Stonewall foundation, and a selection of the works were exhibited in public spaces across the nation, including Brooklyn Bridge Park. Smith is in the collections of some of the foremost photography collectors in the world including Beth Rudin, DeWoody, Jean Pigozzi and Sir Elton John.  She is also in Progressive’s Corporate Art Collection and Fidelity’s Corporate Art Collection.