All the talk from the US about building a wall reminded me that in November it is 30 years since the Berlin wall came down. I was working as a freelance and spent a week in Berlin. This pic was at the border crossing at Rudow. The man was chain smoking, pacing up and down and looking at everybody that crossed. He told me he was waiting for his daughter. I asked how long since he had last seen her. He stopped, looked at me and said 26 years. If I had been a good photojournalist I would have waited and taken shots of him and his daughter, it would have made a good story. I did not do that, preferring to leave him to enjoy the moment in private.
Landscape photography has become big business with many of the competition winners running courses and location based workshops and generally cashing in on their status. It is a small world with only the best known ‘celebs’ getting the attention and the audiences they desire. ‘Doing landscapes’ has been taken over by the need to win, become a celeb and make money.
In previous posts I have asked what contemporary landscape photography is a about. [What is landscape photography? The wild, wilderness’ and pristine natural landscape Man altered landscape]
It has become very formulaic and it seems that people with cameras, I hesitate to call them photographers, have stopped looking at landscape as it is and see only potential competitions winners. They will not engage with their surroundings, see ‘nature’, feel it or connect with it because to them it is just a two-dimensional motif that is acceptable to the judges of competitions.
Popular and club photography is predicated on competitions and winning. Points are applauded, challenges to the accepted norms of what makes a point winning pic are denigrated. The pressure is to conform, to make images like everybody else or be a seen as a failure. Individual creativity is constrained within tightly prescribed rules. I wonder what the enjoyment is in constantly striving to play the game, to please judges, to be accepted and to win?
It is time we engaged fully with our landscape where we live and not run off to one of the ‘honey spots’ so accurately described in magazines. It is time to accept that landscape is not always pristine and natural, that it is made by humans, is sometimes dirty and ugly and that we own the landscape we make. Then we might produce images that say something about landscape rather than conform to a very narrow definition of what landscape photography should be.
The new landscape photography might even have room for the people who live and/or work in/on the land. Most of all photographers might start to enjoy a new kind of image making which is more relaxed, more creative, less competitive and more about their own ideas and feelings. I live in hope but cannot see the money in such a venture!
You have ideas, thoughts about what to do, what to say but doubts creep in. Then out of the blue you read something, see something, hear something and everything slots into place. Today it was a passage in “The Wild Places” by Robert Macfarlane. His piece about the world of John Baker who tracked falcons and hawks in Essex for decades.
In the 1950s Baker was convinced they would die out because of agricultural pesticides and intensive farming. He was right of course. Baker was a man who some would say was obsessed by the plight of these birds. Obsession is a dirty word these days but we need people who are obsessed about ‘nature’ in all its forms. We need people with the passion to follow their vision, to do what they need to do without thinking of the rewards.
Often, I feel that we, as a society, as humans are on the edge of a precipice. Now is the time for the passions to surface, now is the time to follow gut feelings and do what you need to do. Follow that passion.
Thank you, Robert Macfarlane.
I have been interested in the relationship between still images and sound for many years. A few years back I worked on a “photo film” what would have been known as an audio-visual presentation before digital imaging. In the 1980s audio visual was part of my professional work when AVs were used by organisations instead of videos.
Things have changed a lot in 30 years! No more banks of projectors rippling through 35mm colour slides, you would not believe the noise! And high quality audio recording and editing is so much easier in the digital age.
Recently I have become aware of the mismatch between landscape images and the ‘soundscape’ that accompanies them. Often the image of the beautiful scene is taken amongst the sound of tourism; dogs barking, kids yelling, traffic noise, ice cream vans and the general noise that lots of people make. Play that over the landscape and it kills the tranquillity of the image.
As an offshoot, I have started to hear more, strange really because I guess we all think we can hear what is going on around us. But there is redundancy, the shutting out of ‘noise’. Earlier this week I heard an amazing song from a Blackbird. I have not heard a song like that for 20+ years and never one with such an extended repertoire. I hope you enjoy it.
The latest edition of the RPS journal is a travel special. There is a feature about Salgado and a quote on the front page “after the human species disappears the planet will rebuild itself”. This is a relatively common belief but it is flawed. The biggest issue is the artificial distinction between planet and humans. It suggests that we live in a separate world superimposed on the planet. But we are part of the Earth, not separate or above it but part of it. We come from it, live on it and return to it when we die. There is nowhere else for us.
We evolved to become the highest species although some would argue with that; as such we are related to every other living thing. If we die out everything else is likely to die too. It is not just us and them, we are them.
Steven Hawkins recently said that if we do not stop runway climate change there is a huge risk that the whole structure that supports life, all life, will disappear from the Earth. The remains would be another very hot sterile lump of rock like some of our neighbours.
It is time that people with influence stopped spouting stuff about the Earth healing itself when we are gone and got down to doing something positive. We can, repeat can, stop the worst of climate change if we act very quickly. We can turn around our destruction of the Earth if we have the will to do it.
It is also time that photographers took responsibility for their actions and stopped jetting off around the world to exotic locations just to take pics. There is no justification for it. We need a group of photographers who lead by example and fight climate change instead of contributing to it – Photographers Against Climate Change – PACC! Interested?
This is a useful chart to show the relationship between depth of field, aperture, shutter speed and noise or grain for film.
I was in Norfolk photographing an area near the Wash when I came across a field full of Skylarks. Not seen or heard them for many years and their beautiful, endlessly varied song is just magical. Need to go back with a decent mic and blimp as it is always windy!