Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Personalised landscape

Some questions for you...well, me...that are bobbing about aimlessly in the murky shallows of my head.
  • How do you bring your own voice to a generic or shared landscape?  
  • How do you take a picture of a scene and make it say something unique or individual? 
  • How do you make it interesting to yourself but to others too?  
  • And when you have something to communicate, how do you express it in a picture?
The motivations for my work to date have either been personal...or I choose topics that I find unusual, funny or that I am simply drawn to. However with the landscape I haven't yet been able to make the transition from taking spontaneous images, to one that reflects my relationship with it or a specific view of it. So far, I have got ideas but beyond the project work, I haven't got out and taken any images for the assignment work...I think I am guilty of not properly 'seeing' my surroundings...consigned to fleeting views out of the window whilst taxiing children to and fro...I'm sure I'll get there...just looking for inspiration right now.

Some interesting intepretations using the landscape as a canvas below:
  • Almagul Menlibayeva: mythological narratives placed and staged in the her native Kazakhstan ravaged by 60 years of Soviet occupation. 
  • Marc Baruth (full interview): sophisticated blending of images inspired by landscape painters. In his words:
'reality is always mere allegation, and in my works, I absolutely deny constructed reality, which may at best be found in the presentation of a tiny, actually photographed element'. From this accumulation of small, 'real' elements comes something which presents itself as reality or at least something clearly defined, like a landscape painting.'
  • Polixeni Papapetrou: makes images with identity and contemporary culture focussing on childhood and childhood memories. Interesting series with the animals masks!
  • Jennifer Hudson: takes inspiration from the themes of faith, intricacy of personal relationships. Beautiful finish to the images.
  • Gregory Crewsdon: clearly a master at creating narratives in an sub-urban landscape


  1. Its good you are not shooting stuff Penny, but thinking instead. I panicked, went out shot images then looked for something inside them. I found them conventional and regret it. Not that its bad, just that I can see much better now I have finished. I have written about my fear of the cliche'd image and become fearful of even thinking of the likes of Joe Cornish and the commercially based work they do, (which is very good)because its not art as we are led to see it. The course book is very prescriptive, but I think it is now well established that we need not be too frightened of it and can develop our own interpretation.

  2. It is amazing how much we change throughout the duration of a course without really knowing it...I think I only realised when I came to compiling stuff for assessment. Developing our interpretation is so important and I don't fear it per se, however, actually 'realising' it and making it happen is taking more courage and effort than I envisaged. Thanks for the advice Nigel.

  3. Penny, I'm not sure about the slow evolvement of change; for me it is cataclysmic! I looked at the links you listed here and two that really stuck out for me are Almagul Menlibayeva and Jennifer Hudson - very inspiring. Did you watch the video with Almagul when she was in Berlin? thanks for bringing them to my attention.

  4. It's a steep learning curve for sure, but you're open-minded and clearly making good progress John. I tried to watch the video but our broadband is too slow sadly couldn't watch it.

  5. Isn't the process the same as elsewhere - take some pictures, do some reading, look at other landscape photographers and gradually your direction will emerge? Before I started the course I worshipped at the altar of Ansel Adams - the landscape as pristine wilderness thing. Now I am developing an obsession about people in the landscape - and having done that you see things that relate to it, for instance I saw this in the Guardian on Saturday http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2012/jan/27/big-picture-harry-callahan-eleanor-barbara#/?picture=384773839&index=0 - magnificent.
    Marc Baruth see rather pretentious to me and whilst Jennifer Hudson is technically brilliant I don't get it but that might be me. I do like your picture at the top of the page though - just because its been done before doesn't necessarily take away from it does it?

  6. Hi Jeremy. I also saw Callahan's images in the Guardian and was inspired by them too...and the process you mention seems a sensible approach. Several years back I spent over a year prolifically photographing the beauty of the Lakes...yet ultimately it was an empty ambition as I derived no pleasure from taking or even looking at them...apart from the fact I took them, I found no way of making connections with them...I didn't own the land, the sunsets or the milky waters and conversely I didn't belong to them either. And so they hung on my walls and irritated me...and this is why I ask these questions. I don't want to take another picture of Ashness Bridge or the Langdale Pikes - they have almost become a stereotype of themselves...and creatively it is extremely difficult to move away from the default.

    And as you say there is nothing wrong with doing what has been done before at all...to a certain extent, we are all imitating, copying or inspired by what has come before... And whilst Jennifer Hudson, Baruth and the others may not be yours or my cup of tea, they do offer a slightly different view of the landscape. For me at least, I hope to find a way of photographing a landscape that feels less 'generic' in the hope that at the very least, I may glean some pleasure from taking and indeed looking at them afterwards, which I have failed to do so far...

    Thanks for commenting Jeremy.