Liminal Spaces in the Landscape

May 28, 2022  •  Leave a Comment


Cast your mind back to 2020, deep in our Covid-19 Pandemic, of empty public spaces - squares, stations and streets...
everyone locked inside, isolated from one another. 
Roped off benches in public parks, swings deserted, eerily still. The sun shone bright but we were still afraid to venture too far.

It created a fear of everything and everyone around us.

We emptied out of offices, in favor of our own save havens; our homes.

We stopped taking public transport.

We stopped congregating, we stopped socializing.

All the spaces that were once built for our transport, our interactions, our conveniences lay abandoned, bare and barren.

This is Liminal.

Liminal space is defined as the space between what was, and what is yet to be. Leaving one place, for a new, not unlike leaving a job for a new one, that space where you've finished, and are yet to begin again, is liminal space.

For the purpose of this article, I'm only looking at Liminal Spaces in Photography - the images of the modern world without the people in them. That uneasy feeling of being alone in a vast space, amplified.


If you remember 2020 as vividly as I do, then the idea of Liminal Spaces will not be all that unfamiliar as it once might have been.

Liminal spaces don't always have to be totally empty, deserted spaces, all of the time. Sometimes a place can be liminal at certain times of the day. 

Photography of Liminal Spaces is often low-fi, low quality and poorly lit. It's not always meant to be highly polished, but why not? 

Throw in some grain - it adds to the spook factor, throw in a vignette, it's the walls closing in... throw in an unrecognizable figure, and it's the guy in our dreams coming back for us.

Think carparks in your local CBD, at night.
Think of airports closing down for the evening,
Nightclubs in the morning
Or what about, National Parks at night?

Places that we see people flocking into on the best-weathered day, spaces reserved for busloads of tourists, and paths less traversed.

I shot this series at Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania in 2021. I had fog on my mind all night, and not wanting to miss my alarm, I had kept waking up feeling like I had. Eventually around 5am, I gave up on sleep. I got up, dressed, quietly grabbed my equipment and drove into the park. Leaving the car at Ronnies Creek  carpark and began to walk around. There was a light mist, which occasionally descended into a fog, the moon was bright and the stars were out. I was the only one in the park.

I could hear nothing, the occasional drop of water and the babbling of the creek.

After a few minutes, the sheer lonliness and quietness of the solace got into my head.

My mind began racing as it reasoned that I was the. only. one. here.

I began taking photos of the way the available light played with my surroundings. Here is the results;

1. Arrival

A descending coolness greeted me as I moved away from the car. I was particularly taken by the vividness of the crosswalk and the way the puddle intersected with it. It was stunning to see the fog move through the valley.


2. Diffusion

I turned slightly to my right to see the moonlight streaming through the trees. I was taken  by the way the light fell on the road.


3. Sentinel

The light from the Rangers' Station glowed through the trees and even felt menacing in its distance. 


4. Trio

I set off on a walk up and around to Waldheim, wet in the fallen dew, briefly illuminated by the moonlight behind my shoulder. I felt as if I had stumbled upon these Pandanii huddling together.


5. Lookback

Fog forms around me, I turn back briefly to see it gathering from whence I came. The snaking path getting longer and longer behind me, with each passing step.


6. Dawn

Dawn is approaching, the sky is getting lighter. I know now that if there's any atmospheric drivers, the fog will form as the sun rises, it has to.


7. Puffed

Puffs of fog form and linger, then with one suggestion of breeze, shift and disappear.


8. Shift

The fog has shifted, it drifts across the treeline as it seeks out pockets of cold.


9. Gaining Distance

In an attempt to get a more-dramatic view of the drifting fog, I hike up to the closest hill, and again , looking back, watch it dance on its stage.


10. Caw of The Crow

As morning awakens, the wildlife stirs and the sky lightens. The stars fade and the fog evaporates. 

And that, as they say, is that.

Roaming the park at night was a luxury few can afford to do. Of course, I know the parts of the park pretty well and felt confident doing this. Safety first always, if you are unsure of where you are, or the safety of such, please take someone with you. 


Further Reading..

There's a dedicated Reddit to Liminal Spaces... Liminal Spaces (Reddit)

This blog "Liminal Spaces in the Era of Realizing False Promises" has some really beautiful modern, liminal imagery.


The Backrooms Youtube

The backrooms are a series of low-fi clips that are filmed in places that feel familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Large, open spaces, offices perhaps, light and shadow conspiring to create a horror film with nothing but the videographers paranoia... Fluro-lit and windowless spaces that feel like they should be occupied by an army of humans, instead depicting an empty-nest scenario. Our feelings of these spaces are amplified by the unusual lighting, the sickly-green and yellow spaces, devoid of context as to where we really are. 

What makes The Backrooms clip so powerful is its believability. Generic, empty spaces could be imagined to be in a hallway, a hotel, an airport or other familiar places. It's a beautiful study of the banal and how the human mind plays tricks to try and explain the situation. There's nothing inherently scary, other than the continuation of the banality, a exit never found, a reason never reasoned.


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