Landscape photography is one of those 'branches' of photography which is so appealing to the picture buying public that it has become associated with the sort of bland scenes that you might find on the walls of a hotel; pseudo-dramas with dense clouds and misty water. It has become a victim of the rule of thirds and a pictorial orthodoxy for epic large scale scenery featuring superfluous foreground objects in sharp focus shot for little else than as a gratuitous display of its author's technical prowess.
Put all this together with an exotic location, and you have the recipe for what would be and is often mistaken as being representative of landscape photography. Wall fodder.
But landscape photography is about much more than far away or unseen places and an expensive camera. Landscape photography, like all other photography, like all art in fact, must convey a message or communicate an idea if it is to avoid becoming Ikea stock and take on a role in the fickle, jargon riddled world of contemporary fine art.
That isn't to say that pictures can't simply be enjoyed, quite the contrary, but it is up to us to distinguish between simple decoration and art.
extracted from the intro text of a contemporary landscape photography exhibition held at Bristol Creative in May 2010:Why am I posting this?
Firstly I think, even out of context, this extract articulates so eloquently a concern I've labelled as 'landscape photographers trap'. I for one, beguiled by the beautiful, fell in to this 'trap' before I even understood that it was one and have been looking for escape routes ever since. And secondly, it indirectly highlights, more for its absence, the emphasis of the course material. Whilst I accept the importance of technical competency in landscape photography, the projects focus almost entirely on this. By producing a technically perfect image we can create, what? - 'wall fodder'? And as revered as Ikea is, I haven't set my sights on supplying them 'simple decoration'.
Appreciating that this is probably no more than a consequence of dated course notes and having had prior knowledge from other OCA students, I have no interest to protesteth too much. However, I am still at a loss as to where to find guidance on these ephemeral 'non-technical' skills that 'one' clearly needs to elevate 'one's' work from simple decoration to art. How do you move up the curve and work out how to...
- make images that challenge,
- translate ideas in to a visual, 2d, 'indexical' (think that's the word) photograph,
- contextualise and create a visual language,
- produce work that is contemporary, relevant and original.
I'm reading plenty of books and these bullet points are only the tip of my enquiries. I do have some thoughts, but I was hoping I didn't have to tackle it all by trial and error...
Any answers on a postcard...well just down here in the comments box would be just fine...pretty please...I'll even buy you a pint...now there's northern generosity for you!!!