Category Archives: Projects

The wild, ‘wilderness’ and pristine natural landscape

Living in the Peak District National Park I am constantly reminded that the ‘views’ are stunning. Even a simple trip to the supermarket takes me through spectacular countryside. This is what the thousands of visitors come to see, pristine natural landscape in a national park. I have always wondered what they expect.  This is where the problems start because if they assume that this is natural, wild, untamed land or wilderness – an inappropriate term imported from the US – then they could be disappointed.

The land around has been worked for centuries, it has been cultivated, mined, quarried and managed by the people who settled here. No part of it is untouched and no part of it is pristine or natural.

As Robert Macfarlane says:

“Thousands of years of human living and dying have destroyed the possibility of the pristine wild. Every islet and mountain-top, every secret valley or woodland, has been visited, dwelled in, worked, or marked at some point in the past five millennia. The human and the wild cannot be partitioned.”

Macfarlane, Robert (2009-10-01). The Wild Places (p. 125). Granta. Kindle Edition.

The other issue is the use of the word ‘park’. What does that mean to city dwellers? A publically accessible green space? But all the land in the National Park is owned by somebody. There are public footpaths which give a right of access, provided you stick to the path, and there is even some ‘access land’, but there is no universal right to stroll where you want and do what you want. Some of the ‘wild’ moorland is managed and used for very lucrative shoots and access is prohibited by land owners and game keepers. The word park is ambiguous.

Where does that leave us? With areas of land that are designated as national parks but do not include pristine, natural landscape because there is none and where access is restricted. Nice views though.

 

 

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“Documentary Expanded” – Aperture 214

If you are interested in documentary photography then you should see the Spring 2014 edition of Aperture. You can get it from villagebookstore.co.uk by mail order or in person. I have no connection other than being a satisfied customer.

On page 29 Susan Meiselas says:

“Do you know who you are making photographs for? How will the photographs serve the community? Photographers often start with a passionate engagement with their subject, but an audience can easily get focused on the narrator, at the expense of the narrative. For a photographer to be effective, they must face both of these questions.”

For me this could not have come at a better time. Now I need to answer the questions! Can you?

 

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Another view of the countryside

The new project, “Another view” has certainly stirred my interest in the visual representation of landscape. Just read “Reframing the new topographics” edited by Greg Foster-Rice and John Robrach, which is pertinent to the way we look at landscape now particularly the chapter by Finis Dunaway, “Beyond wilderness, Robert Adams, New Topographics and the aesthetics of ecological citizenship”

Living in a national park means I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscape in the UK yet I feel great unease about the way that images are used to sell this area. The notion of pristine landscape is invoked to attract an increasing number of visitors but the vast numbers are destroying what they come to see. And this is not pristine landscape, it has been formed by thousands of years of human activity, yet the majority of images of ‘the Peak’ depict a perfect landscape devoid of people.

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