The Modern Landscape

Discussion in 'Landscape' started by unrealnature, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. Rather than push my opinions, I thought I'd just try to provoke your own opinions. I title the thread "Modern" because in art in the twentieth century, the landscape almost disappeared; it was kind of an embarrassment to Modern painters, sculptors, etc. But then it came back in the 60s, primarily through Earthworks artists (think Smithson or Heizer). In photography, we moved to the New Topographics non-classic ideas of landscape, and now, to other non-traditional kinds.
    I'm taking the chapter headings with the quotes that accompany those headings; from the book Landmark: The Fields of Landscape Photography (2014) because they do a good job of surveying modern landscape photography:
    Sublime This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that is itself. — David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

    Pastoral I have in mind a robotic camera, the Pointer, which would wander and stop before a pleasant, photogenic scene. — The Photographic News, April 1865
    Artefacts Contemporary photographers conduct a reappraisal of the industrial present by seeing it within the continuum of time in which all things rise and fall. The view of industry as an ephemeral phenomenon transforms industrial structures into cultural artefacts. — Judith Bookbinder
    Rupture God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods: but he cannot save them from fools. — John Muir, 1897
    Playground American tourist Ella uses an iPad while riding a Wi-Fi outfitted donkey led by her brother Aaron, in Kfar Kedem, a biblical reenactment park in the village of Hoshaya in the Galilee, northern Israel. ... Organizers [of these tours] are hoping to connect the younger generation to ancient Galilee life while allowing them to like, share, tweet and snap it instantly to their friends. — Associated Press photo caption
    Scar It is the fuel oil that is poisoning the sea water. Whence the impoverishment, the progressive disappearance of the wonderful marine flora-fauna. ... [goes on for four more lines] — André Gide, 1931
    Control A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. — Michael Pollan
    Enigma I would look at pictures and try to imagine that I'd never seen the subject before. How could the photograph be misinterpreted? What was ambiguous? How could scale be deduced? That bird in the distance flying past the man, a wingtip partly obscured by the man's out-flung arm -- I knew that the bird was a second creature in the distance, but if I didn't, couldn't it be a growth of the man's arm? — Jon Lomberg
    Hallucination Composite portraits are absolute quackery! What's next, composite landscapes? — The Photographic News, January 1888
    Reverie Recently A. Richard Turner has noticed that some of Leonardo's ostensibly meticulous descriptions of the physiognomy of mountains were actually the product of his fertile imagination ... for Leonardo, it turns out, had never been anywhere near Mount Taurus. — Simon Schama
    If you're mystified by any of those headings, let me know and I'll link some examples.
    On, I see mostly "traditional" landscapes (Sublime, Pastoral). Would you agree? That's not what the current art world is paying attention to. What's your feeling about, for example, Control, Rupture, Scar, or Playground, which dominate what I see in the contemporary art-photography market?
  2. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    excellent post. i'd love to see some examples and i promise not to plagiarise*

    *crosses fingers behind back
  3. Great post, Julie - thanks. Several of the quotes remind me of a book, Letters on Landscape Photography, by photographer Henry Peach Robinson, published in 1888. It's a lengthy book which is still eerily relevant today. My favorite quote refers to one photographer who obsesses so much on which equipment to buy that he takes no photos for a year: "His was of the order of particular and minute minds that try to whittle nothing to a point."
    By the way, if you do a google search on the title, you can download a PDF copy of the book (free).
  4. From my perspective, if you look at 99 percent of the landscape photos here on this site, you will see that most people here are mainly taking photos of their favorite vacation spots: sunset on the lake, fall colors, etc. I do that myself. I mountain bike daily through a beautiful wooded area running adjacent to the Mississippi River. Every season provides an amazing degree of texture and color and I love to capture what I can. In other words, most of us are not tapping into the art world of academic and intellectual analysis of the meaning of the landscape. We’re just taking pictures of what we enjoy. What you are talking about is more interesting to a relatively small group of serious art students.
  5. I am with Steve. Behind the viewfinder, I see "interesting" patterns and use my learned memory of my "gear" to record that moment. My brain is not going through all the "clap-trap" of the referenced "critics". . . I have seen very few of them produce meaningfull "work". My work is pleasing to many, and a historical record of my age. Art? let a critic yammer about it at will. Bill
  6. Very interesting post Julie. Those categories are mostly readily recognised (I guess Playground could cover the many pics posted here of kayakers, horse riders etc that have a significant amount of background). Could these genres (I think that's what they are) each be seen as having good and bad examples, so while Sublime has too many clichéd pictures (golden hour, rock in foreground, mountain/blurry sea/blurry waterfall in back) there are some excellent and original pictures in this genre. So what makes excellence within a genre? Not just novelty, but seeing what you might call the essence of the place. Often that means a distillation to simplicity. Or is this just pretentious?
  7. John, I think I like all of the sub-genres. I'll try to think of an example of a particular contemporary Sublime that I really like, but I have no prejudice against any/all of the sub-genres described in the OP as long as they're fresh, not imitations.
    You ask, "Or is this just pretentious?" I don't even mind pretentious as long as the photographer is working it, not being worked by it, which is to say, he's seeing pretentious, not imitating it. Again, I'll see if I can dig up an example. If you have interesting ones, please post links!
  8. I think maybe Elger Esser can serve as both my Sublime and Pretentious (a new genre!) examples that I like, though he's pretty heavy with the yellow all-over thing.
    This Esser sample from artNet is pretty thin; Google Image search him for more.
    At risk of stepping on toes, I like this sequence by Simon Norfolk but/and I also find it Pretentious. It's kind of Duh! but it also ... works. Note that the link shows only three; there are actually four in the series (one for each season).
    To me, Sally Mann's southern landscapes, which I love, are sublime, but I'm guessing she's a little out of bounds because of her alternative processing.
    And when I think of Pretentious, my first thought if of Salgado's landscapes, but I don't like them, so I can't use them.
  9. OK I'll try to find the odd example (but I do like Salgado!). And perhaps one more genre - intimate landscapes. Generally, closeish, no sky visible, perhaps a little ambiguity. Favoured by some Brits because we don't have as much Grand Vista as some other countries. David Ward does this well. Not quite the same as Enigma.
  10. I love the quote " A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule". This is why I do not mow my back lawn more than three time a year, but, to appease my wife and the neighbors, keep the front lawn well trimmed.
    I looked at the Esser images. If this is sublime, then sublime is synonymous with boring. Most of his many landscapes involving water have the horizon exactly 1/3 the way from the bottom to the top of the frame; not very imaginative.
    To me, the term modern landscape implies employing technology that was not available in the past, such as HDR, high ISO, nightscapes including both foregrounds and star fields, panoramas, composite images, extreme depth of field, abstract manipulations, split-tone printing, etc.
    I love taking landscape images, but only in places that I would enjoying being without a camera. This usually means being out in nature without many other people around. If it involves some form of exercise to get ther, so much the better. Like Steve and Bill, I do not pay attention to what the art world think is "in".
  11. Whilst seeking the Henry Peach Robinson book mentioned above, I came across this link, which I thought worthy of wider dissemination. If I am treading on toes, moderators please remove.
  12. Live link for those who don't want to copy/paste: [HERE]
    Thanks for posting, Tony. I don't find his arguments convincing; it's too easy to think of reasons why each of his points could be argued against, if you think about it for a minute. People, including messy, obnoxious people, are part of the landscape. Landscape isn't some sterile, separate reality.

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