Write a short reflective account on my own views of how the concept of picturesque has influenced my own ideas about landscape art, and in particular your idea about what constitutes an effective of successful landscape photograph.
In the past, the landscape has been somewhere for me to appreciate ‘being’ outdoors – escapism. The grander the vista, the more remote and the more dramatic the weather/ light, the better. Albeit I now realise the politics of the rural countryside, these spaces have historically been for my mind, body and soul to settle from the daily capitalist grind. It is somewhere where I can ground myself and also gain perspective of my own daily toil versus the sheer brilliance of the world at my feet. I would imagine that I had been influenced by commercialised ‘Gilpin view’ of the British Isles.
I am equally at home within run down towns though, where I question the impact of politics on the existence of mankind – this serves to trouble me when poverty and greed are juxtaposed.
From an early age, without any knowledge on how to decode landscape oil painting, I remember being in awe of master landscape paintings, particularly those that provided atmosphere with impending stormy skies. I would always find Turner’s abstract approach to the landscape had a draw on me. I wasn’t always entirely sure what I was looking at but the sense of drama engaged me. The paintings invited my imagination to invent the backdrop story to the painting. Being non-the-wiser for Gilpin’s influence, I have visited places based on brochures and postcards and this has inevitably led to my early photography approach to be a souvenir.
I suppose that the first landscape photographer that grabbed my attention was Sebastian Salgado. Again, drama, scale, man’s interaction with the landscape and the foreboding encapsulated within a frame held me for long enough to consider life outside of my frame of reference. I realise the discourse surrounding Salgado’s work now but back then and even now, his work stops me in my tracks.
My understanding of landscape photography is still evolving but clearly there is far more to landscape representation than a mere idealistic representation for tourism purposes. I know that there is work that stands up to academic scrutiny better than Salgado’s work seems to. Also, I am aware that I need to be evolving beyond the Gilpin influence of yesteryear.
The success of any photograph is if it achieves in communicating whatever narrative the photographer has set out to stimulate in in the audience. This also combined with technical and compositional aptitude. I don’t dismiss anything personally as different approaches talk to me on different levels. Even technically sub standard work can strike a chord in the right context and the most commercially driven landscape photograph has its own narrative.