Revisiting Assignment 3 : Putting myself in the Picture
The idea of putting myself in the picture was daunting even though I knew I didn’t actually have to create self-portraits as such. However, I decided to meet the challenge. I played around with ideas including composites of myself as two sisters, including some wearing a wig here https://catherinebankscn.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/2-my-incomplete-self/. This was interesting and I enjoyed the experiments but I had the sense of not knowing what kind of dialogue I would have and so I turned to my relationship with landscape in the form of the nearby Copse where I walk almost every day.
The Context & Research is outlined here describing my readings on Psychogeography and Sense of Place; memories of childhood and photographic influences. My description of the process is here where I also include a link to an experimental video. The chosen images and version 2 of the video are here
My tutor’s response was positive, encouraging and challenging. I had felt brave in taking the risk of setting-up self-portraits in woodland, on my own but my tutor suggested I go back onto the Copse and do something even more different and performative. My response to this was a revised video with ambient sound together with 2 photographs of 3×3 grids (landscape format and square crop) of the landscape, myself in there creating pieces of art, and the final artwork. This is here .
I decided that the grid of square format images is the best for Assessment submission and this will be added to my portfolio box. The other grid will be included in my Assessment Preparation folder.
Subsequently I continued to develop this with a further project where I set up a mini exhibition in the Copse (write-up under Personal Project category here ) and I will be including a photograph of this in my Assessment portfolio box. Another result of this post was an invitation to join the blog the Elephant’s Journey a collaboration of urban artists who take photographs in the environment and then place these back within the environment. I now have two posts on that blog and the latest one is here .
Working on Assignment 3 gave me both much more confidence in self-portraits and a surer sense of my relationship with landscape – something I will continue to develop in my next Module. I owe thanks to my tutor as well for encouraging and challenged me to step even further outside my boundaries.
My tutor’s feedback was mainly positive, encouraging and challenging. As usual I will concentrate on comments that struck chords with me, including those that unsettled me in some respects.
My intention in producing the work had been to find a way to put myself into the frame, mainly facing the camera, whilst not entirely merging with the views or obstructing the viewer’s gaze’ My tutor’s view though was that, although the set is good, overall “there are a few different visual discourses forming which contributes to a mixed reading”. The scenes with myself in them “come across compositionally distant and disconnected” through my use of wide-angle focal lengths. Also some of the scenes are cluttered with no obvious focal points to ‘really entice the viewer into the scene’ . I think that what was happening with the latter was that my wider aim had been to share the route of my daily walk and what I see as a part of “Putting myself into the picture”.
He also reminded of Trangmar’s work where her model “is visually connecting with the scene through their gaze and proximity to the camera”. To be honest I realise now that I had let go of that as my major experiment there had been with my other possibility for a series “My Incomplete Self” and this image . and I had forgotten to refer to Trangmar in my write-up.
I got the impression that he was disappointed to some extent as he wrote that although my supporting material/research was “[….] evolving into a strong artefact “[……] it does waiver towards the end of the project where perhaps some further research may have been helpful in shaping the final set’. I was relieved that he thought the video was good in creating a stronger narrative and elevated the work, “With a few subtle tweaks this video will be a very good piece that will add to your arsenal of visual mediums”.
It was these sentences that began to unsettle me:-
“Your personal voice is developing but perhaps it is not focused on straight landscape photography, but something else. With this assignment, I can see emerging a performance and methodical approach in creating. This is encouraged in which it would be good to start researching this possible pathway.
My tutor is seeing in me something I don’t see and this developed further with his suggestions for a re-shoot and edit.
Re-shoot & Edit
With the video; my only suggestion for now, is to explore alternative audio for the backing track. As opposed to the piano piece, how about making your own sound recordings of the woodland area, by approaching it in a more natural and organic way. It could just be the sound of you walking through the scenes, with the leaves rustling and twigs breaking under your feet.
Your overall approach to the woodland comes across as being explorative; I see three distinct patterns forming, observing, interaction and documentation. What I recommend is that you make three sets of triptychs going by the headings above. You already have the observing scenes, I advise using images #7406 and #7436 from your finals and then #7686 from your edits, that’s the first triptych.
Here is where it diverges into a quasi performance piece. Go back to the woodland and start to create some small-scale Andy Goldsworthy style pieces with the woodlands natural resources. Whilst doing this, have your camera set-up and take self-portraits during the process of making, this will be the interaction. Once finished, document the constructs you have created; they would represent the documentation element; this process will provide you with the other two triptychs.
Now for the edit; crop all of the images to a square 1:1 ratio and place them in a grid of 3×3; experiment with the layout from being linear to a sporadic order, where the narratives are intermingled. I envision that this process will provide you with an alternative approach and methodology to creating and forming narratives.
Contemplation of the Feedback
I have always considered myself as not being an artist in the sense of drawing, painting, creating objects with my hands and it’s hard to describe the almost physical feeling I experienced reading the suggestions – a kind of inner resistance, feeling boxed-in and struggling to escape. I had felt very challenged in producing self-portraits and now something else was being suggested in addition. I was on holiday at the time I read the feedback and so I had a few days to allow all this to settle and to calm myself with reminders of the positive comments I had received . There was also considerable scope in such a re-shoot and the concept itself was very interesting. It was just the idea that I would be the one that would be doing the creating!
An exchange of emails ensued once I was back home (copies will be available in my paper log for Assessors to read). By this time I had looked at the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy . Andy Goldsworthy only photographs his pieces once after each is made. I find it interesting that something which is temporary and transient is made permanent by the photograph. He finds inspiration from the landscape around him and creates art from what he finds there. Richard Long is a sculptor and land artist sometimes basing his art around walks he has made and using photography, text and maps of the area where he has walked. His famous piece of art A Line Made By Walking – a photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass – was made in 1967 whilst he was a student. There is an OCA Study Visit to a Solo Exhibition in Bristol on the 3rd October. I was sorry I couldn’t attend this but will look forward to reading reviews.
I also followed the links provided by my tutor that show different examples of mini narratives formed with triptychs and also. I liked the neatness and smallness of the triptychs I’d seen with the sense of containment about them drawing me in. Somehow reminded me of the Japanese figurines I had photographed in Assignment 2.
During our email exchanges my tutor reassured me that my work was good with some very good themes evolving where he wanted to push me further. He thought the performative aspect was something evident in my work and commentaries and just the act of walking and describing is a performance in itself. He also reassured me that anything I created didn’t have to be a masterpiece (thank goodness!) it was the act of creating itself that was important so long as I documented the act of making and the finished piece. He agreed with my comment that I didn’t want to treat this as just an exercise and should approach it as a new method in thinking and working within photography. I queried ‘square’ as opposed to ‘landscape’ and the suggestion was to experiment with both.
My enthusiasm was also strengthened by a comment on my blog from Gill Golding an ex OCA student who has recently completed an MA at Goldsmiths College, London see here and here . She referred to my work as ‘embodied practice’ and suggested some books around this and a phenomenological approach. This further helped me to assimilate this new concept of myself and I realised that for a while now I have been searching for new ways to engage with landscape photography. Way back in June this year I had subscribed to the newsletter of ‘The Walking Artists Network” after seeing a reference to it in some work I viewed at the Farnham UCA Graduate exhibition. It’s an international network and I get regular emails informing of ‘events’ all over the world. So far there hasn’t been one within a good travelling distance for me but I find it stimulating to know of all the different ways in which people can walk together and create art of all kinds. I have also looked at the work of Hamish Fulton I found his website rather inaccessible but, again, walking is the basis of his practice that” focuses on an engagement with the environment and the self through the experience of walking” see here
The process of the re-shoot
Feeling enthused rather than rebellious I went back to the Copse concentrating on observing, interacting and documenting over several days during a period of sunny, dry weather. It isn’t easy to take a photograph of oneself whilst involved in an activity – something with movement and fluidity becomes frozen and almost artificial, particularly when the activity involves bending over or crouching. My preference would be to have someone else taking the photographs as I interacted with the environment as this would be much more natural than having to set up the camera and then, somehow, re-enact something. I guess I’m too attached to the idea of being as authentic as possible! In fact, my husband had agreed to come with me and press the shutter once I had set everything up but I ended up going on my own. In retrospect, a video might have been preferable (maybe next time).!
Creating the ‘art’ felt uncomfortable at first but seemed more natural on my subsequent visits.. Another dog walker stopped and talked to me at one point whilst I was setting up the camera and said what a good idea it seemed. One morning I spotted a particular piece of bark that had detached from a fallen tree. It had holes that made me think of a mask and when I fitted it to my face I could smell the damp and earthiness of the woodland. I enjoyed looking around me in a different way.
Current progress with Re-shoot and Edit
I have created a new version of the video using ambient sound. It isn’t as good as I would have wanted it to be even bearing in mind that I am very much an amateur. I discovered that the recorder I bought at some expense isn’t as good as the recorder on my iPhone so went back to using that, discarding several sound recordings along the way.
I used a different layout here, with Observation along the top, Interaction in the middle and Documentation at the bottom. I also used 3 different images.
I again used the magnetic board to display small prints cut from contact sheets (contact sheets will be in my paper log) and that helped me with choices. I used the format suggested by my tutor with the Landscape grid then changed it around with the Square grid. but have thought that another way of presenting would be to have the images as loose cards in an appropriate box and the viewer could arrange triptychs themselves. This idea was also viewed as a good one when I took the small prints to the OCA Thames valley Group on the 19th September. I also mentioned my fleeting idea of creating an impromptu, very temporary, exhibition for myself in the Copse – fastening prints to trees. More courage needed!
Additionally I now have Susan Trangmar’s book “A Play In Time” – her study of a park in Hove – that contains photographs in various formats (some I think stills from the film) accompanied by a DVD of the film. I do want to experiment more with size and format of images and have decided to create a book dummy. My thinking is probably too literal at present because, to me, it seems more logical that images should be in decreasing sizes from landscape, through creating, then the creation itself.
I also want to continue with my video experiments and would like to do a Workshop on this if I can find an appropriate one as Local Adult education courses seem to concentrate solely on photography. Part 4 of C&N awaits me with its focus on analysing photographs so I need to organise my time more efficiently now so that I can do the reading and still take photographs and play around with videos.
I’ve begun reading Wanderlust. It’s a book I know I will read and re-read slowly to absorb all the many paths it explores. I found Rebecca Solnit’s comments on landscape and photography interesting and they fitted in with my experience of creating self portraits in the Copse. “Artists, of course have walked. […..] but once they found their view they stopped traipsing around, and more importantly, their images stopped the view forever” (p. 267) She sees writing and walking resembling each other more than art and walking, because writing and art are both temporal, they cannot be seen all at once because they unfold in time. A lot to ponder upon.
30th September 2015
Solnit, R (2002) Wanderlust, Granta Publications, London (2014)
Part 3 : Assignment 3, Selected images and Self Evaluation
My Place in Landscape
Bodies are both materially and socially constructed, always in a state of becoming, constantly (re)configured in relation to their environment.
(Morag Rose (2015) p. 159
The one thought that struck me upon reading the diary I kept as part of the Assignment brief was, “I lead a quiet life nowadays” enjoying looking at our garden and feeling the sun on my face. I decided to create a project around the garden. Surprisingly this ended up with some self-portraits there (although I moved indoors eventually) and I wrote about these as a potential Assignment here. I also had another idea concerning the old apple tree as metaphor and symbol. Time constraints have meant that the latter will now become a personal project rather than a potential Assignment 3.
Instead I decided to move my self -portraits into the Landscape. I feel different there, breathe more easily and use the opportunity for contemplation. The world with all its troubles feels a different place when I am surrounded by green.
I have explained the personal/artistic context and the process here and here. My intention has been to find a way to put myself into the frame, mainly facing the camera, whilst not entirely merging with the views or obstructing the viewer’s gaze. My relationship with landscape has been a continuing subject for exploration during this Module and that will continue.
I have chosen 14 images and also improved a video slideshow I created to show my ‘emergence’ from the landscape.
I am usually most interested in combining text with images but, on this occasion, have decided to let the still images speak for themselves.
The chosen images
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
I had concerns regarding printing in my previous Assignment and eventually purchased a more up-to-date printer, so I hope prints are of a better quality. The creation of videos is new to me and I know I have much to learn. At present I am continuing to practise, using iMovie now with the aid of a book that is comprehensive yet fairly easy to understand. My next step will be to find a suitable workshop. Additionally I have become more proficient in using wireless remote shutter release. Creating self-portraits outdoors has been relatively easy but I need more practice in indoor work. The use of lighting rather than natural light will be my next step.
Quality of Outcome
I believe I have demonstrated a sound foundation of knowledge in respect of relevant artists and writers that has been assimilated from wider reading and research.. Similarly in respect of relating these to my practice and being able to communicate my ideas to others. Comments on my blog from fellow students and discussions with them have confirmed this.
Demonstration of Creativity
I don’t feel as if I have been as intellectually creative as in Assignment 2. However, I did challenge myself to make self-portraits (despite knowing I didn’t really have to) utilised a wig to give me confidence, and then translated the idea outwards to landscape. I took what seemed a large risk to me in taking my camera equipment outdoors and then walking some distance from it to create the self-portraits.
I do believe that I have found my own personal voice and continued to us it in expressing my approach to landscape.
I have reflected on reading and research throughout and continually related this to my artistic practice. I particularly enjoyed this during this Module and, for the first time, with this Assignment, tried the experiment of not making notes at the time; creating images and then looking to see how I had assimilated all that I had viewed and read. This worked well for me on this occasion. It also meant that I looked again at books and images and this reinforced my learning.
One thing I have been particularly pleased about is that I have been able to more closely link my early experiences with present interests so that I have more understanding of the way in which they have affected my outlook on life.
2nd September 2015
Pogue, D & Miller, A (2014) iMovie : the missing manual. Revised 3rd ed. Canada: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Richardson T (Ed) (2015) Walking Inside Out : Contemporary British Psychogeography, London: Rowman & Littlefield
Rose, M (2015) Confessions of an Anarcho-Flâneuse in : Richardson, T (ed) Walking Inside Out : Contemporary British Psychogeography, London: Rowman & Littlefield.
I sorted through photographs taken this year and chose 117 which were then reduced down to 62. To begin with, from those 62, I firstly chose one image of a tree and 6 self-portraits, firstly standing against the tree and then slowly moving forward. I then went through a process where I layered the first self-portrait against the tree at increasing opacities with the intention of creating a video or slideshow of myself emerging from a tree. Here are the images:
My original intention was to place these images within a video I had made. The problem was that, of course, the still images where at different aspect ratios from the video which meant they were cut-off. Instead I created just a slide-show YouTube video of me emerging from the tree which I embedded into my Introduction to Assignment 3 here . Feedback was positive on the whole but with a couple of comments that the star shape transitions were somewhat distracting. If I have the time I will work on this again and include in the final part of this Project.
I then continued with choosing the images I would use for a series. The 62 were reduced to 47 and then to 27 which were processed into Contact Sheets. One copy of each ready for my tutor and one that I cut into small images to use for the next selection process.
Here are the Contact Sheets:
I’ve recently had some very interesting and helpful contact with photographer C.Y. Frankel (will write more about this in another post) and he suggested using a magnetic board for selections.
This has been suggested to me before and this time I took notice and it helped a lot because over the past two days I have kept moving images around, adding and subtracting. C.Y. also sent me a link to a Printspace article on ‘How to Edit Your Work’ that he thought might be useful albeit a little basic. It was very useful because, again, it reminded me of lots I’d learned along the way and absorbed but not assimilated.
Be clear and concise about the concept.
Try to be neutral and choose the best not just your favourites.
Have consistency (colour, shape) v are they too similar v make sure there’s diversity!
It’s about quality not quantity.
If unsure, pair images that work well together and go from there
Get in touch with photographers who you admire and ask them for advice
I think that, in the end, it depends and sometimes you have to go with what appeal to yourself, having taken account of all advice given. I’m writing this because I constantly observe how different viewers see different aspects of images. There’s also the question of presentation format. I took images in portrait as well as landscape format and also close-up detail, but these hardly appear in my later selections. If I decide to do a book then they can appear in differing sizes and I would also use more of the images. Not to mention others that I would feel impelled to go and re-take/re-make. For the time being I concentrated on images that seemed to fit together to form a narrative. The assignment brief doesn’t refer to number of images this time. I checked this with my tutor who confirmed that the number of images is down to me.
Here are the potential ones I’ve chosen but I am going to give myself another couple of days before I make a final selection.
I’m very interested in Psychogeography, the practice that is said to stem from the revolutionary group of artists and writers called Situationist International (SI) 1957 – 1972. In her introduction to the book I’ve just acquired, Tina Richardson writes:
For the SI, psychogeography was the ‘study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’ [ ….]those taking part were expected to be conscious of the environment, especially in the way it tied in with a critique of capitalism (p. 2, 2015)
I’m not going to go into detail because I’m about photography at the moment but, from what I’ve gathered, psychogeographic practice is as fluid and varied as those people who perform it. Every urban walk is different according to the individual walker , the space/place and time etc. One of the papers in the book is by writer and performer Ian Marchant and Walking the Dog: (For those Who Don’t Know How to Do It) who paints a wonderful picture of the amount of local knowledge, history and individual peccadilloes that can be revealed through doing just that. I began to think it was all fiction, and so, being me, checked out Presteigne where he lives. Looks as if he was telling the truth!
I hadn’t realised I was a psychogeographer but I am in my own small way and this is what my relationship with landscape is all about at the moment. I was born and brought up on a large council estate. Back gardens were mainly just for looking at and we played in the street or went to the local park. For several years weekends were spent in Derbyshire in either of two family ‘huts’.
I’ve moved house several times as an adult and one of the first things I do when I’ve moved is to explore the local area and look at its history. Having recently read Jennifer Cross’s paper What is Sense of Place” (2001) it looks as if my sense of place now is both ‘Spiritual” because I feel at home/make a connection with the landscapes I find and ‘Narrative’ because I look for histories and recollections written by other people. In a sense, I make myself at home as opposed to feeling ‘rooted’, (thanks to my fellow student Stephanie d’Hubert for writing about this Paper and providing an access link.)
I realised recently that I’m most attracted towards small, wooded spaces where there’s a degree of safety because I’m not far from civilization (meaning houses) yet I can breathe a different air; have space to think and be in areas where nature has been given some freedom to be itself. My walks also fit with psychogeography in terms of Debord’s concept of ‘dérive’ – an unplanned tour directed by my feelings at the time because once I’ve set out I often take different routes according to how I’m feeling. This has become more apparent now that we’ve moved house. I can still get to the larger Common via a 5 minute drive but there are nearer smaller spaces where I can walk with the dogs. Assignment 1 was based on one of them – Ottershaw Memorial Fields but, this year, I discovered another smaller area where I don’t have to cross the busy main road.
This is where the political aspect comes in. The entry to Chaworth Copse is through a gate by the side of the main road. It was originally part of the grounds of ‘The Mansion’ (a large house set in the grounds of Ottershaw Park and this, together with nearby Timber Hill, was given to the poor to graze their animals on and later used as allotments from the 1800s until the 1960s. The Copse has been designated as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) which gives it “legal protection from being disposed of by the Council at any time in the future for development” see here . This isn’t as simple as it sounds because local Councils are under government pressure to build new homes and are always looking for ways around protected areas plus some of the funding comes from the EU and our membership is under the spotlight. See here . I’ve been re-reading Marion Shoard again on Edgelands and her reference to research done in York which showed that “….in the green belt around York, a quarter of the supposedly protected green belt within one mile of the edge of the built-up area was developed between 1966 and 1996”. I don’t think that the Copse comes within the meaning of Edgelands in the sense of an interfacial rim, but I do think that a precarious status does apply.
Many of the surrounding houses have garden gates opening onto the Copse and there are also several public footpaths leading off with access to back gates of other houses and also down to another busy road. Having written that, I rarely see anyone walking through the copse, even with a dog, so it’s almost as if I have my own private wood (cf also my Assignment 5 of People & Place here.) I know that people do use it – there’s a game being played between myself and someone who keeps leaving a large soft toy perched on a tree. I move it in case it’s lost and it might get rained on. The toy disappears and then reappears somewhere else a few days later etc. There’s also an area which has a rope ‘swing’ near a branch structure, now covered with tarpaulin. From the rubbish I can sometimes see scattered and blackened twigs it’s obvious that one or more people (probably youngsters) use it for meet-ups. I even found myself tutting at it all one day (like a respectable elderly citizen) going back the next day with a carrier bag to clear some of the rubbish away, and then almost phoning the local Council to ask if they would empty the rubbish bin please because it was overflowing!
I couldn’t say it’s a beautiful area in the true sense of the word , certainly not ‘sublime’, with few wild flowers (apart from some lovely bluebells) but I enjoy walking through there, hearing the birds sing against the background of faint traffic noise and noticing what’s going on around me. Although ‘maintained’ by the local Council the area is left pretty much to itself apart from signs of trees being lopped sometimes. I walked through it with someone else a while ago whose comment was along the lines of , “This isn’t looked after at all is it. It’s a bit of a mess. I think a few houses could easily be built here”. There was I just enjoying the peace and quiet and thinking how nice it was to breathe fresh air and be in somewhere small but fairly natural! Politics with a small ‘p’. I realise as well that I need to challenge myself on wanting to think that something within shared public ownership is ‘mine’ and having elitist thinking. There’s something old in my head regarding the common weal but how each individual needs to feel some sense of pride or ownership to take proper care and not depend on someone else to take the responsibility.
Putting myself in the picture
I hadn’t felt entirely satisfied with my self portraits, couldn’t connect with them somehow and so wondered what I could do next. I’ve been building up a series of photographs of the Copse over the last few months and now thought of including some self-portraits there. I thought about and dismissed this several times though. I would have to stand a fair way from my tripod and camera. What if someone came along and stole them? I’d feel embarrassed to be seen doing something like that. People might see me from their bedroom windows and so on… Eventually it got to the point, like the original self-portraits, where I just had to do something. It was a fine day not too sunny or too dull so I would have less of a problem with exposures, and not too far to walk with a tripod over my shoulder and two dogs, on leads, who I couldn’t not take because they are my walking companions.
The way I’ve handled research this time is to mainly look at photographers without making notes as an experiment to see how much I’ve absorbed when I come to make photographs. This is apart from Elina Brotherus who has occupied my thoughts quite a lot despite my original antipathy! Brotherus photographs in large, beautiful landscapes unlike my small Copse and, to my eye, tends to stand out from the landscape as opposed to becoming more a part of it as here. She also often has her back to the viewer. As I look at this one I am reminded of Casper David Friedrich’s paintingWanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818 of the anonymous man gazing at a wild landscape, “He is a protaganist engaging with the landscape not merely performing a supporting role” (J. A.P. Alexander ) . Could Brotherus be representing this both in an ironic and ‘feminine’ way. There’s another image where she is wading in the water of a beautiful lake, delicately holding up the hem of her deep pink coat (see here in what, to me, is a very feminine way of avoiding getting wet. With the reflection in the water this part of the image provides such a harmonious shape within the frame.
Was there any way I could put myself into the frame in a more ‘modest’ way, mainly facing the camera, whilst not entirely merging with the view?
I have also been clearly influenced by fellow student Keith Greenough and his Landscape Portrait series as I was one of his first subjects. My involvement in this project made me think more deeply on my relationship to landscape using poetry (see here) and so now I have another opportunity to place myself within it in a different way.
Now I’ve made the environmental self portraits I’ve looked back on my Pinterest Boards and collection of PDFs to investigate other influences and inspirations that provided a foundation for the work.
Revealing more unconscious influences
I discovered Susan Trangmar and her earlier, colourful Untitled Landscapes 1985 taken in the UK where she places a woman gazing into the landscape, “The viewer is invited to make an identification with the view through her eyes while at the same time being aware of a ‘blind spot’ in the visual field caused by her physical presence” – as with the earlier work of Friedrichs and the later work of Brotherus. I also liked A Play In Timea film and book commissioned in 2008 by Photoworks in association with Brighton & Hove City Council. Here Trangmar explored the seasonal changes and use of urban green spaces. The film uses split screen techniques, with snatches of overhead conversation and ambient sounds, and I would like to do work like that someday. Now I’ve braved the open air with tripod and camera this might come easier to me than experimenting with my iPhone.There are two videos on YouTube showing excerpts from the film (just do a search on Susan Trangmar) and an excerpt on the Photoworks site
Eliot Porter introduced colour to landscape photography and also the concept of ‘Intimate Landscape’ photography – making the invisible visible and looking at nature through a middle way between vistas and small detail with horizon and sky often missing. That way of making photographs attracts me and I’ve had a quite a few discussions with fellow students as to whether this is more of a feminine approach as opposed to male photographers and the wide sweep of the ‘sublime’. I’m still not sure as I haven’t found enough evidence so far. Porter certainly put landscape photography into the personal sphere when, in the preface to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition Catalogue, he wrote
Some critics suggest that I make photographs primarily to promote conservation but this allegation is far from the truth. Although my photographs may be used in this way, it is incidental to my original motive for making them, which is first of all for personal aesthetic satisfaction (E. Porter, 1979)
There’s an independence of thought here that I think puts landscape photography beyond a traditional genre.
John Darwell’s Project Borderland (1988-90) explored areas in Cumbria where nature and industry meet so as to comment on tensions between man made and natural landscape. I’m not so much looking at this but do have this continuing query as to when is a landscape natural and when not and Darwell’s style also fits my way of looking at landscape .
Another large influence has been John Gossage and The Pond – series gifted to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and exhibited in 2010. See a Review of the Exhibition Sarah Boxer for The Washington Post here . There is also a long video of the Exhibition Talk on the Smithsonian site, which is also on YouTube (interestingly a video of the book runs as a background to the walk and that reminded me of the OCA talk by Johanna Ward, who said The Pond was an influence on her work and also ran a video of her own book behind her.).
Aperture originally published the book in 1985 but it was reissued in 2010 with an essay by Gerry Badger. The book contains 52 b+w photographs taken on a walk around a derelict pond behind a shopping centre in Queenstown, Md . At first I felt disappointed that the photographs weren’t in colour but then I entered into the images to absorb the feel and sense of Gossage’s intention. We see glimpses of the pond in the first three photographs and then buildings through the trees in the fourth and so the walk unfolds. There is an essay by Gerry Badger at the back of the book where he describes how Gossage sets the pace, tenor and mood of this walk first in a forensic manner and then, by turning our gaze upwards, “[…..] we catch a glimpse of what nature might, or should, be”.
ASX published an essay about the Pond by Robert Adams on 24th February, 2013 (an excerpt from Creative Camera: 30 Years of Writing ). Adams reminds us of the thoughtlessness involved in where trash is placed unnecessarily and the hatred of life that makes some people break a tree, “for the pleasure of seeing it broken”. For him this makes Gossage’s study believable, “because it includes evidence of man’s darkness of spirit, it is memorable because of the intense fondness he shows for the remains of the natural world”.
Despite his echo of Thoreau, which might seem to promise a didactic pounding, Gossage does not use his survey of wood around a lake to stress an indictment; the off-road landscape through which he leads us is a mixture of the natural one and our junk, but his focus is not so much on the grotesqueries of the collage as on the reassurances of nature’s simplicities.
There’s little of that kind of damage in ‘my’ small Copse but it is a small piece of nature.
I will be presenting my own the images in the next post and then, in my reflections explore whether I have been able to portray my own pleasure in a small, fairly ordinary landscape, whilst also placing myself into the frame in a different way from Brotherus and Trangmar.
27th August 2015
Aexander, J.A.P. (2015) Perspectives on Place, Bloomsbury Publishing UK
Brittain, D (ed) (2000) Creative Camera: Thirty Years of Writing, Manchester University Press
Cross, J. E. (2001) What is Sense of Place Conference Paper, Colorado.
Gossage, J. (2010) The Pond , Aperture Foundation, NY
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