This post could form the basis of a thesis if I let it...I won't...but I do want to clarify my thoughts before embarking on the Landscape module, without getting too bogged down in theory. I thought it was useful to consider Romanticism or more specifically neo-Romanticism and its impact on landscape photography in the Lake District...
The height of the Romantic era (1800s) preceded photography, just. Consequently, there were no Romantics using photography as their medium. However, on reading this article on www.weareoca.com I started to consider the ongoing legacy the Romantics have left behind with regards landscape photography in the Lake District. The Lake District was at the heart of the British Romantic movement with Wordsworth, Coleridge, De Quincy, Southey, Ruskin, Hill, Potter and others fighting to protect and tame the very landscape that was previously considered with intrepidation, fear and hostility. These individuals strongly believed the Lakes should be revered as a thing of beauty and 'conserved'. We owe much to these enlightened individuals.
It is ironic therefore that the photographic medium largely unavailable to the original Romantics and the values they bestowed on the landscape, are still held so dear today, particularly with landscape photographers. Consequently, there is a huge number of images that depict the 'sublime' and beauty of the Lakes. Yet, do these photos challenge our perceptions of the landscape or merely affirm it as 'picturesque'? The original Romantics were protesting against convention, as a response to mass urban sprawl and industrialisation. What are we challenging today by continuing to respond to the landscape in the same way?
In my opinion, this romantic view of the Lakes has been done...and very successfully too. The Lakes is a place of beauty, physical and otherwise: period. And as the area is held dear to so many visitors, this catalogue of images will undoubtedly grow. Should I be spending my time chasing forecasts to capture the next dew-sparkling dawn or haunting hanging mist? Is it not a little 'repetitive'? And is beauty merely 'surface-deep' when describing a landscape? And when you live amongst the splendour of such scenery, should and does it take on a different meaning?
Interestingly, OCA tutor Peter Haveland has just produced a book of 'abstract' style landscape images entitled 'blurscapes', which offers an alternative response to a well-photographed Snowdonia landscape. His introduction mirrors much of my own photographic challenges with regards living in a 'picturesque' landscape.
I know the genre of landscape photography has moved on significantly since the Romantics. From the New Topographics to much contemporary landscape work there is little depicting the 'sublime' anymore. The rose-tinted glasses came off decades ago. There is an almost 'antithetical' thread that runs through much landscape work of today, exposing the least aesthetic landscapes and how we, as a race, exist within it, usually uncomfortably. Early examples include Stephen Shore, Robert Adams and more recently Andreas Gursky and Mitch Epstein. The camera's gaze shifted from beautiful to impoverished landscapes, geographic or metaphoric. Of course I am generalising dangerously.
I have found a few examples so far (and only two locally) where the 'sublime' landscapes have been photographed as anything other than resplendent...I will be checking these artists out: Jean Marc Bustamante, Andreas Gursky, Dan Holdsworth, Richard Misrach, Walter Niedermayr, Raymond Moore, Keith Arnatt, Chris-Steele Perkins, Richard Long, Hamish Fulton.
Perhaps we do still appreciate the concept of 'picturesque' as much as our forebears and therefore don't need to photograph it any other way...on the other hand...I would like to at least try...which I know will be harder to achieve than write about!! I have no clue yet how to go about this!!
I am also aware my knowledge is limited at the moment, so I am happy to stand corrected on any of the above!!