Landscapes don’t just happen, they’re there for a reason.
Whats the bigger picture?
Widen out what landscape means…
Simon Norfolk: The Supercomputers: ‘I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that’
Simon Norfolk: The Hebrides: A slight disturbance of the sea
Whilst Norfolk’s work fits the conventions of landscape photography (rule of thirds, wide-angle lens, use a steady tripod, foreground interest, low ISO setting, framing, aesthetics, colour etc) all of his photos are more than what they seem. His accompanying text used to back up/explain the bodies of work is just as important if not more than the images themselves. The unknown mysteries in a landscape that might not initially meet the eye/be apparent to the viewer, are exploited and used to challenge the viewer and their usual realms of thought. He uses two radically different forms of documentary landscape. Clear colours, no shadows (however same technique in both, he is a perfectionist/pushes aesthetic beauty to extremes) both subjects: data centre/records/information are stored on big machines: the landscape of our lives in data form. Hebrides – big trench deepest between us and Ireland, dump explosives, then they wash up on the beach, corroded barrels etc. It is lovely and beautiful conventional scenery but then you notice discarded munitions everywhere and learn the history of war that continues in the area – v. unconventional.
Paul Seawright: Volunteer
Seawright has produced this series of photographs made at the location of various US military recruiting stations enlisting young men and women to volunteer for service in Afghanistan. They are bleak, grim and boring images- a direct commentary on the US army recruitment policy. These are the ugly scenes men and women walk into when signing up to the US Army. It is appealing to join the army what with free food, college paid for (if there for 5 years) etc and these photos demonstrate how run down and poor the areas are that the army are recruiting in, they are depressing environments and the army are a beacon of hope for people with no other options. These images are far from visually stimulating- Seawright has deliberately done this as a direct comparison of reality, the ideologies of the army are challenged through these political landscape images as the photographer comments on the recruiting policies of the US army.
Mark Power: Black Country Stories
Mark Power: 26 Different Endings
In France the equivalent of 23p in the £1 is spent in government Art funding, in the UK 0.1p in the £1 is spent on government Art funding. The UK is a sad place. Black Country Stories explores this idea by documenting the Black Country, an area to the west of Birmingham in the post-industrial heartland of the British Midlands, a place hit particularly hard by the 2011 economic recession. All the photographers involved in the project found that they couldn’t get access in Black country and were thrown out so had to look at ways of describing a bleak area with limited/no access. There are several images of feet in the series, elegant footwear against a backdrop of grey concrete and crumbling brick. Despite the grim landscape, it shows peoples perception of the importance of standing out and looking good whatever the environment. There are signs of development pictured too, a subjective approach and commentary on the people who live in the area. The evidence points to the change from white to asian as the population increases- the changing demographics and progressions of society.
“The coverage of the map (A-Z London Street Atlas) changes with each new edition. Someone somewhere decides, year by year, where it should end; which parts of the periphery of London should be included, and which should not. This project is about the unfortunate places that fall just off the edge.” 26 Different Endings shows us how our country looks, and it doesn’t seem pretty! So much of our country is lived on/inhabited- not much of our land is left untouched and undisturbed by human activity. These mundane pictures of places just off the map, are the visual boarders, the paper edges, to our capital city. What defines a lived upon area and the countryside? Dumping grounds between urban living and agriculture? This landscape collection challenges our definition of what qualifies to exist in our society as chosen by the A-Z- what landscape environment makes the cut?
Karl Hyde and Kieran Evans
A seventy-minute film that tracks a peripheral route from north Essex to the Thames, ‘The Outer Edges’ documents a journey that follows the flow of the River Roding from its source to its conclusion at Barking Creek and along the Thames Gateway to Tilbury. Stopping off variously at allotments, boxing clubs, Saturday markets and working men’s clubs, the film celebrates the vibrant energy and attitudes of the people living and working within London’s invisible borders — the unmapped boundaries that Hyde crossed each day to record ‘Edgeland’, his first solo album. Drawing on the influences of inspirational psychogeographic films such as Patrick Keiller’s ‘Robinson In Space’…
His work is a metaphor for if you left the country and then came back, how the country would look. The housing in the UK is meant to be a dream world but the reality is somewhat different. His work draws on how much you actually see and ignore versus what you actually remember when driving around the UK. We have selective memory (we only remember the good stuff) whilst his landscape work documents the warts and all. We have an idea of how housing conditions should be, he is conveying bad housing by shooting out of a train window- where do you encounter those areas? Big cities, run down cities, individualised house ownership. He touches on the peoples dilemma of what you have if you own stuff- how you have to look after it, how you individualise a garden stamped into landscape- people wanting ownership.
John Davies: British Isles 1979-2009
Davies photograph’s are like a scientific record. They prove evidence of people in photos without photographing people. They are devoid of humans whilst humans dominate the work. Landscapes are always changing based on human activity, something someone thought of value to record. Davies made a deliberate decision to move away from remote documents and picture where he lives- he see’s value in what surrounds him all the time- the city is as beautiful as rural landscapes. Davies was heavily influenced by the Bechers– he uses the same high view point as the couple in his own work and both shot on large format B&W. “How can I make order out of this chaos then become natural”- The Bechers. There is a level of a romantic view of the landscape depicted in Davies work. The British want beauty and to ignore the ugly- it is a luxury to live in countryside/village- yet he has made the mundane magnificent.
Donovan Wylie: British Watchtowers
“Using aerial photography, Donovan Wylie has produced spectacular landscape images, while also affording us the privileged, panoramic views once enjoyed only from the watchtowers. The demilitarization of these rural border regions is represented as part of a historical process; the structures that once occupied, surveyed and dominated the landscape are recorded before they disappear from view, from the present into the past.” Karen Downey, Exhibitions Director, Belfast Exposed. There is an obscurity issue explored here along with issues faced in Northern Ireland to do with the protestant notion of living in Britain. It is about boarder control, about security. Wylie gives us the ability to see the world from the same viewpoint with the same aesthetics as the military do without labelling it or drawing attention to the last conflicts. He has subdued the once chaotic watchtowers and given them a sense of innocent beauty that similar landscapes elsewhere may experience.
Paul Graham: Troubled Land
Graham was photographing in Northern Ireland but not so much the action, more of the finer details and the subtle elements of the conflict. As he was not focusing on the guns/shooting but more of peoples reactions and life continuing on, so he had more time to consider he shots and really focus on the emotion in the environment. Photographs can be subtle and need to be read, not just glanced at. They deserve respect. He didn’t work as a photojournalist the first time taking those pictures, he didn’t label himself, just photographed the landscape around him- one image can make a whole sequence of work. “At first sight [the photographs in A Troubled Land] seduce you into viewing them simply as landscapes which accounts for people’s desire to engage with them. But they’re booby-trapped and launch the viewer into another area altogether. They play off that particular kind of sentiment which (Britons) have for landscape—a position which engenders Constable-like fields and Turner-like skies—against sentiments associated with political allegiance, British and Irish. If you don’t delve any deeper, you might see only the flags, signs and graffiti. But these symbols should also be read within the context of the landscape in which they reside, the Union flag in the richest and most fertile lands, the Irish tricolour against the rockier and hillier ground. These different layers of reading within the photographs only come out slowly.”– Paul Graham (from Paul Graham: The Troubles by Paul Bonaventura).