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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Comments

Wow, "perfect antidote" is right! Simply wonderful.

I understand getting bored with the same-old same-old regardless of the genre or medium, but I really don't understand the concern about "deception" by exclusion. Even in so called documentary photography (which I think is an oxymoron) the photographer includes and excludes things (people, places, objects, etc.). It is related to the idea of composition: there is ALWAYS composition in an image. It might not be good composition or conscious composition but it is always there. And a photographer always decides, consciously or otherwise, what to include and what not to include. The idea that photography somehow shows the literal physical truth is absurd. I guess my colors are showing.

Mike,

I live just about 2 miles north of Detroit and what you note is true. There are city blocks with only one or two houses occupied, the rest of the houses demolished or in ruins. Other areas have manicured lawns and well kept houses with no abandoned buildings in sight. One can pretty much assume one's attitude about the state of the city and justify it with photographs - no matter which attitude one assumes.

During a 2006 trip to Alaska I took the usual 'touristy' photos from trains, planes, and ships. It's interesting to me that the photographs I took in Glacier Bay don't (of course) reflect the majesty of the landscape - except internally; I "see" in my mind's eye the entire view of the ice from the bay rather than the limited view captured by the Nikon D70S when I review the photos. The mind indeed plays tricks.

(A year or two later I took a photo of a polar bear at the Detroit Zoo; a close up head-and-shoulders shot with the white background totally out of focus and when people see the photo the comment is invariably "Nice photo. You took that in Alaska?". So it may not only be the point of view of the lens that impacts the viewer's perception - might it also be the surrounding photographs that have an impact?)

Jim

Mike,
This matter of pristine landscape photography always turns my mind to the idea of truth in photography. There's really no such thing. I've finally come to the conclusion that interesting/beautiful/thought-provoking photography (mine or someone else's) is always going to be "in the eye of the beholder" and that there's no truth involved.

There are so many ways we photographers can, and ALWAYS do, make pictures that are anything but 'true'. Selective positioning of the camera, choice of focal length and film format, timing of the shutter release, etc..
One of my favorite 'propaganda' tools is the use of black and white film (or these days, the desaturation button in iPhoto). Man... does that B&W ever add drama!! Take any street scene, picture it in B&W, and all of a sudden you have 'urban decay', 'gritty street life'.

Mark,
Wrong framework. The metaphor that pertains would be to statements: either you're trying to tell the truth when you make a statement, or you're trying to do something else: persuade, deceive, entertain, etc. This sidesteps the philosophical question of whether it's possible to tell the truth. All "documentary" means is that you're making a sincere attempt to make true statements. It's up to others to decide whether you're reliably correct or not, which is why our trust in the people who make such statements is something that we built up slowly.

Mike

But you could almost say that about anything, couldn't you. We visited the Canadian Rockies last autumn, first time in 10 years, and the area was not like I remembered it. Is it the place that changed or my perception?

I almost enjoy the fact that places I go to don't look like the photos on the tourism web sites. It's an interesting thing in itself to see that, maybe even a good thing. There may be people in the world who think your own town is exotic because of a photo someone posted somewhere.

I understand the criticism though and why it comes about. When you're looking for new perspectives in art all the time, it must be an occupational hazard to see derivative work everywhere or call it "topic"-porn. Not sure about "ruin porn" though. Isn't photographing the Egyptian Pyramids "ruin porn" at some level? Is it any less interesting because there's a coffee shop nearby? (I'm making that up, never been there.)

But I see the potential problem if it claims to be documentary work. I saw that Detroit book recently, thought it was very good, but I didn't come away thinking that the entire city was like. But a lot of it is.

You forgot to mention "reality porn," the effort to make photographs that focus on the pessimistic, the depressing, and the hopeless--regardless of how beautiful the subject *could* be. To a lot of viewers, those images are just as cliched and tedious as "landscape porn" is to other viewers (which is why Robert Adams gave up pretty quickly on the irony-of-trash-cans-at-Yosemite vein even though he's still often associated with it).

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To me, a lot of these objections (to ruins photography and to wilderness photography) amount to imposing one's own notions of "truth" on others' images.

Since you mentioned travel photography, I'll suggest as an example that you can send a dozen photographers to Paris and each will come back with their own vision of the "truth" of that city, none of which is necessarily misrepresentative or deceitful.

One photographer might depict in a flattering light the familiar tourist icons of Paris, something that with selective framing can still be done without Photoshopping. Another photographer may want to show how those same icons are covered with graffiti and swarming with tourists and hucksters--again, easy to do with selective framing. Another photographer may decide to show the seamy side of Paris, focusing on gangs, prostitutes, and con artists. Still another might think the truest depiction of the city would focus on the vast immigrant neighborhoods that ring the city (there are millions of North African emigres and their descendants now living in France).

Which of these depictions is the "truth"? As long as one can find in Paris all of the things pictured, it's hard to say that any of the approaches isn't without a healthy element of "truth."

Similarly, which depiction of a wilderness area is the "truth," one that shows only wilderness or one that includes as much human imprint as possible? Cannot both be legitimate approaches, each serving different artistic and/or documentary goals?

There are some times when I want to show what *is,* and there are other times when I want to remind viewers of what *could be* (and sometimes, what *was*). But I'd have a hard time saying that one approach is consistently more or less legitimate than the other in most, let alone all, circumstances.

Every photographer has biases, preferences, and goals, no matter how much he or she may claim to be "objective" or may claim to show "exactly what's there."

Since every picture leaves out something--i.e., no photograph can ever convey the complete context of any subject--those biases, preferences, and goals are usually reflected in the final image.

While most people claim they are bored to tears by slide shows of amateurs travel slides I have always said they give one the truest feeling for a landscape or foreign location. Such photos truly demand attention and are to me more valuable than the pretty pro landscape spreads, however nice these may be.

I would question both the connection of "documentary" and "objectivity" (great works of documentary photography are frequently not very objective) and also the distinction between "art" and "documentary" (in photography esp. those categories are often blurred without objection) and also the implication that we use "porn" to refer to art which is being incorrectly presented. After all, we don't usually say that something is pornographic because it's too artistic.

I think that when people identify something as porn, what they are saying is that there is something illicit, inappropriate, or irresponsible about the nature of the satisfaction we derive from looking at it, and about the narrow scope of our enjoyment of it.

What separates real pornography from mainstream or art films is not that pornography has sex in it, but that it doesn't have anything else in it, and that we only really want to see it so we can see the sex -- and also that there is something about that desire which we are (or are expected to be) ashamed of.

So I think the question should be: are satisfied viewers of photographs which are derided as "landscape porn" or "ruin porn" experiencing comparably narrow enjoyment of the subject, and is there something basically wrong or shameful about that enjoyment?

I agree that many, perhaps most landscapes are not engaging.

But in an age of 10 million images at the click of a button, how many times can a landscape be shot in an interesting 'new' way?

But David Noton is the wrong target. You can walk around inside his photos, they are so well shot.

Good criticism throughout. As a travel photographer who tends to shoot perhaps idealized photos, my pet peeve is anachronisms. For example, the junk in Hong Kong (there's only one and its function is to pose for pictures and take tourists on rides) or the fishing birds in Guilin.

Anachronisms are especially hurtful in third world countries (or whatever the politically correct term these days is), where a photographer can do a disservice by portraying a time that's no more, or blows clashes of eras out of proportion.

Every photographer has to leave something out when framing a photograph in the viewfinder or ground-glass unless you creating one of those 360º pans that can only be viewed on a computer. The photographer chooses what to include and what to leave out depending on what they want to share with the viewer. So why is it "porn" to choose beauty over ugly or nature over man-made? That says less about the photograph than the attitude of the person making that judgment of the image.

If you want to see some startling examples of what they are complaining about check out some real estate photos vs the actual properties. A house that looks like it sits in a wooded area may actually be in town on a lot with more trees than the average home or (my favorite) a nicely remodeled home may sit surrounded by a bunch of decrepit buildings or house trailers.

They are showing you what they want you to see. If you see the surroundings first your impression will immediately color your opinion. If you want to show someone natural beauty you don't include the smoke stack of the industrial plant on the horizon. Is that dishonest? I don't think it is. We tend to overlook a lot of beauty because of the ugliness that surrounds it. Learning to see beyond the ugliness is as important as recognizing that it exists.

Apparently the little slice of nature next to the factory example is real or you could not take a picture of it. I like to think of it as documenting what is left. Since when is Google street view the standard for photography?

I had the chance of wandering along Scotland's west coast with an english friend last year, and he had with him some UK landscape photography magazines. I went through them and the pictures were a bit too over the top for me. Not to say that I find manipulation for art's sake questionable. It was just that manipulation on those was too heavy handed for my taste. Obvious use of graduated filters, rough contrast and saturation, extreme wide angle use, all these effects that might work on a couple of frames, but when you start to see a repetitive pattern on them it fastly becomes boring, but especially evident, which to me is a major sin in landscape image manipulation.
I have a couple of nice shots of the Old Man o'Storr that remind me of a post here some time ago. Gorgeous country, Scotland.

I don't think so many landscapes qualify as porn--they just aren't that crass. However, they are often quite boring. Online, landscapers have a tendency to critique eachother into sameness rather than encourage experimentation.

i don't think documentary objectivity is possible; we try and try, but every attempt has "fool" in it -- either we try to fool the viewer, or we are simply fools, or we make ourselves look foolish in the eyes of those who really see

for that reason i am a tremendous admirer of a strain of motion picture filmmaking exemplified by directors like Werner Herzog and Abbas Kiarostami -- films that do not imagine a pure truth nor a pure fiction; i am exhilerated by many of these films, because the mind wants to know what is real, and by never reaching satisfaction that urge increases the intentness of my perception

what i have not achieved, and which i noticed only because of your post and my thoughts above, is an adequate appreciation of this same tension in still photography; sure, the basics are all there the work of many photographers from landscape to street photography, but despite putting real effort into experiencing photography, that higher, almost ecstatic, level of intentness eludes me; i have some ideas as to why, but they are very wispy thoughts so far ...

I worked with a photo editor who as a hobby took pictures at Civil War re-enactments (we lived less than an hour from Gettysburg, Pa.), and I asked him about how he worked. He said that he wanted to make sure not to include anything that was modern in his photos of the re-enactors. He wasn't selling the prints, it was just an aesthetic choice. Which is fine, but to me, the interesting thing (other than the playacting aspect of it) is the juxtaposition. These guys come in brand new cars dressed like they stepped out of the 1860s. To me, that's the difference between what you'd actually experience and what the photographer (at some level) WANTS to experience.

It is an interesting point. As a matter of fact, today CNN has a web article along a similar vein. The article is about how hotels' marketing images don't tell the full story, are framed to look better/bigger than they are, and even staged so beaches look pristine.

Link: http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/01/19/hotel.photo.fakeouts/index.html?hpt=C2

Different subject, but really a similar theme to this post.

Ruins in the landscape is enticing photography and yes, you can edit away pristine elements to support your story. I spend occasional time taking pictures of ruined interiors rather than exteriors. With interiors in ruin, one can rarely move the camera left or right and see a non-ruined picture, so the context does not change with movement, merely the framing. 
An example of such interior ruins was taken in your home town at a long closed Pabst Brewery. I suspect Jamie would suggest that I should have converted these all to B&W? I've done that too, but I prefer some of the intense colors in the ruins.

I might add that the brew house featured is surrounded by recently and wonderfully renovated buildings, and that the brew house is also  planned for renovation into something fresh. When that is completed, I will add a final photo to suggest there is a proper exit from the ruins into a born again building.

http://www.macdonough.net/Other/Pabst/9030101_nYg7a#600815310_z3YTa

Rarely are places ever as you imagined, or even seen in pictures. I expected little more than the picture postcard I'd seen hundreds if not thousands of times when I finally got to stand before The Leaning Tower of Pisa fifteen years ago. To my absolute amazement, pictures could never pay it justice- that damn thing had absolutely no business whatsoever standing up! On the flip side, I also remember my first sighting of the mighty Rock of Gibraltar. That iconic symbol of strength and isolation was dotted with small homes and peoples' laundry hanging out to dry on it!

"they select their point of view a priori and then exclude everything that doesn't contribute to the impression."

I'm fairly certain I've been instructed to do exactly this when composing a shot...

Hmm. Whose truth?

Dear Mike,
As someone else commented David Noton´s dispatches are great source of technical information and also great inspiration for any aspiring landscape photographer...in fact I pass out the link to my photography students because his dispatches are a brilliant way of getting a real idea of what is required to be successful working photographer.
I think this Elliot Erwitt quote sums up my problems with landscape photography in general...
“Quality doesn’t mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That’s not quality, that’s a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy – the tone range isn’t right and things like that – but they’re far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he’s doing, what his mind is. It’s not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It’s got to do with intention.”
(Elliott Erwitt)
BTW (smiling) you and your brilliant posts on the world of photography have a lot to blame/thank for my defection from the world of landscapes and now very happily trying other styles of photography. So once again thank you for being one of the two brilliant guys on the internet who opened my eyes and helped me out of my creative rut.

I've witnessed my neighbourhood go through industrial decline and all that comes with it. I just can't help thinking that going down to Detroit and taking pictures of ruins be it for art or for news, is the obvious thing to do. That might also be an obvious judgment to make and I'd love to see some fresh work that proved me wrong. But for me, that wasn't it.

Mike Johnston said:

"Curiously, I think all these dissenting voices are objecting to the same thing, regardless of whether they're talking about landscapes or ruins: a lack or failure of documentary objectivity."

No, I think they're objecting to the lack of thought in the photograph. See a landscape or a ruin, shoot it, move on. So what? We all know there are landscapes out there, and ruins.

The distinctive thing about Ansel Adams was not his landscapes -- they are mostly still there -- but his way of looking at them. His way of looking, compared to what came before, was as different as the Impressionists compared to the Realists. Now, people joke about having an Ansel Adams "art" setting on their automatic cameras -- for people who try to shoot Adams vision, rather than their own. That's Adams porn.

When people talk about landscape porn, I think they're talking about stuff that doesn't have any particular vision -- it's just a picture. Doesn't have to be pretty. People go out and shoot Adams and Eggleston and Shore or -- name somebody.

Pushing a button on a camera is easy, taking snapshots is easy, taking mementos is easy, landscapes are easy. Porn is easy. Anybody even seen any sexual porn that looked like it was hard to think of?

It's the thinking that's hard. The art. That's what's missing in landscape porn.

JC

Aha! There you have it, Mike. Truth in photography.

To me it's about making us comply with nature, instead of the wrong way around.

They don't report on a place, they select their point of view a priori and then exclude everything that doesn't contribute to the impression

It goes beyond this. We understand the spectrum from documentary/representative to arty. In one of his books, David Ward voices the idea that one can seek to represent the *feeling* of a landscape, through the various artistic choices available.

Almost a year ago now, someone told me he shoots his style of landscape "because he likes to record how it felt to be there". Suddenly I realised: how come *everyone* "feels" 5x4 LF, portrait-orientation with rear-tilt perspective, taken 2' off the ground, at sunrise, with Lee grad-ND, using Velvia (50 rated 40), at f/22-f/32 because that's optimum for the lens,...? Feelings? Hogswash!

I have also used 5x4 with Velvia and all the trimmings, but far from exclusively, and I hope that the way I use all the combined features of the LF camera might be more individualistic. (One of my better-performing LF photos is "stuff the textbook, it looks nice on the groundglass with the movements the way they fell open out the bag".

Get at least 7 jelly-beans spanning the rainbow and arrange them side-by-side in colour order. Take a photo in nice neutral light on the kitchen worksurface. Process it straight from RAW and with several variants to emulate various films (DxO is great for this). Make a print. Lay the uneaten jelly-beans on the print. Compare. Make your mind up, choose your own film and stick with it.

I used to consider myself a landscape photographer and would strive to find interesting scenes with as little evidence of mankinds influence as possible; least of all MAN in my pictures ! Then along came my daughter; I was too tired to get up at 5AM on weekends; nature photography went by the wayside and over the last 8 years I've become more of a people photographer. Much more. The landscapes that interest me most are rural or urban; all the better if they contain people ! I had David Noton's website bookmarked from some years back; now I find his pictures beautiful, but shallow. (Which isn't to say I don't still appreciate some landscape photography).

Separately, I read a definition of porn on a forum that I have to share. It goes like this:
If you like it, it's porn.
If I like it, it's art.

(Referring specifically to nudes, I would imagine, but pretty amusing once you get over being offended by it).

I'm pretty sure that the same could be said of the vast legacy of landscape painting that most photographers reference, consciously or not. The creators of those works most probably left the ugly stuff out as well.

I know it's not "documentary," but the ability to isolate the beautiful bits is one of the reasons I photograph in the first place.

We do it in our minds too, so why not?

Ooooh, aaaah, Pictorialism, Heresy, heresy! We need straight photography, that is the real photography! Aahmmm... isn't this debate about a hundred years old now?

I think we (should) have learned by now that photography is many things, and certainly different things to different people... some like it straight, others like it bent :-)

I for one couldn't care less about documentary truth in my photography, I first and foremost want it to express my opinion. I want it to show what I want it to show. And as long as I am not publishing in a newspaper, I see no problem in that.

And even pristine landscape photographs aren't 'lying' per se. You can in fact see those images at those locations - you just need to press a camera to your face and point it in the right direction so that the viewfinder edges hide the disturbing bits from view. :-p

Mike,
Well written post. It appears that the post reaffirms the massively held opinion that photography is ONLY an indexical medium. The most important statement I found to be in your post was,

"They don't report on a place, they select their point of view a priori and then exclude everything that doesn't contribute to the impression."

Perhaps this mass view of the photographic process (that it's inherently indexical and only can be) is the reason why there's such a large gaping hole of public discourse when it comes to contemporary art (specifically conceptual art and photography). By only viewing photography as an index, you limit the breadth of the medium and unfortunately confine yourself in a viewpoint that will only lead you to see images in only one specific manner.

/endrant

time to go finish my english paper.

-dan

Mike said.

-- All "documentary" means is that you're making a sincere attempt to make true statements. It's up to others to decide whether you're reliably correct or not, which is why our trust in the people who make such statements is something that we built up slowly. --

The greatest lie is the one that's closest to the truth, as all photographers know too well. Journalism is knee deep in that snakepit. Even the Economist has been bitten on the ankle as you pointed out previously!

Selling fantasy on the other hand is about the most honest thing you can do because there is no expectation of belief at all, just a sincere and almost childlike need to please. As an avid reader of Iain Banks and Terry Pratchett I am a huge fan of fantasy, even if I do read history text books for a hobby as well.

Cheers
Steve

There's another facet to this issue, which involves the physiology of vision.
The eye is very far from being a literal recorder of a scene. Instead, only the central part of your field of view has good detail and full colour. The rest is filled in by shifting your direction of view (rapidly and frequently, only partially under voluntary cotrol), from memory, or from the rather blurry and flat image available from the rest of the retina. Further image processing occurs within the eyeball (such as emphasizing edges), and then again in the brain. Then, after all that, you only pay attention to part of the image. In the case of your ruins in a thriving community, if you are there to look at ruins, then you look at ruins.
End result; real vision edits and emphasizes, just as photographic vision does.
So in some ways, an image carefully crafted to exclude obvious components of reality can actually be a more accurate representation of what you saw at the scene. (Many a time I've looked at great scenery, photographed the heckout of it, looked at the photos, and said "Where did that pole/rubbish/culvert/signpost/etc come from?")

I'm adding "porn" to my list of over-used terms, along with "extreme", "New and improved" and a few others. I get the "I like it, therefore it is art" vs. "I don't like it so it's porn " or however others choose to phrase that thought, but that still doesn't take explain why the term has become so overused.

I know what *I* want to see when I see the word "porn", and sadly, all to often it is photos of cameras, cars or PC equipment, when I'm thinking "tasteful nudes" or the like.

Please, let's return the term porn to it's proper place in the lexicon...

Oh, I've seen some really good porn, that demanded a lot from the photographer and the subject. Then you can call me a degenerate or something, but it dosn't change the fact that even what you don't think of as tasteful or artistic can't be done in different qualities. If anyone here's a saint, i'm sorry to say some people have a different range of interests than others.

One of the chief ideas that I took away from Sontag's On Photography (and this idea is but a small, small slice - there's plenty in that book, and I need to revisit it soon) is that photography beautifies, no matter what the subject. Perhaps we can update this for the 21st century: photography...pornifies?

On the subject of urban decay, may I recommend the following website: www.elenafilatova.com.

For the uninitiated, her website is about the aftermath of Chornobyl: an extensive portfolio of pictures of urban and rural decay. To call it thought-provoking is an understatement.

BTW: she is a very expressive writer, even poetic, and maybe prophetic.

With best regards,

Stephen

PS: I am also fascinated with decay. There are many abandoned houses here in rural central Virginia. I've photographed a few, and I would like to do a monograph on all of them

Well, Detroit is a disaster. I have lived in the suburbs of Detroit for a little over ten years, and the city is a mess. It has been mismanaged by corrupt people for so long, it is tough to see how the city will ever be anything but a shadow of it's former self.

I have flipped through Detroit Disassembled, and I like some of the pictures in themselves. I guess I don't look at the pictures as a complete picture of the city, because I know they aren't, so I don't find them offensive.

I read an article titled Detroitism that I found through

On a maybe related note, has anyone gotten the sense, as you look at pictures online, that with all the competition out there, photographers seem to be trying too hard ? Too hard to be "unique", too hard to have a different point of view, too hard to grab your attention ? Maybe it's just me and maybe all that's new is that I'm looking at more pictures than ever before, but I get that sense a lot lately, that there really wasn't a good picture there, but the photographer took it anyway, and did something, somewhere in the process to make up for the fact that there really wasn't a good picture.

Mr. Noton's landscapes certainly don't bring this thought to mind, but many over-saturated landscapes I see do.

There is no truth in photography, doesn't matter which genre, if there is a person making decisions then truth is absent as everything we see is filtered by our own individual set of preconceptions. Perception and intention are everything. Take David Norton and Robert Adams out to the same spot and they'll produce very different pictures but both will be equally valid because you can't argue with the way they see and respond to the visual and emotional stimuli in front of them.

I write and photograph travel articles and guide books. Naturally I'm drawn to the grungy side of places. I find them interesting, but my work requires me to look at the nice shinny attractive side. I'm currently working on a guide book and if I did it on my personal preferences I'm certain that my editor would find someone else. So how do I handle such dissonance? Easy I shoot my projects and have an outlet for them and I keep it very separate from my professional work. This is what a lot of commentators can't seem to get a grasp of. Even Mike fell for this when he criticised Annie Leibovitz's Lavazza campaign calling one of the shots the worst photo ever. Norton, Ward, Cornish and Waite maybe a bunch of British photographers who abuse Velvia and graduated filters to produce schmaltzy landscape photographs with little so called objectivity and artistic sensibility, but they are doing it to satisfy customers, and if that is what the customer wants then who is anyone to argue.

Let's just be grateful for the fact that photography is a broad church and there is room for everything. Lets consign the elitist attitude to where it really belongs ... the bin. If people are happy doing what they do then that's all that matters at the end of the day.

A while ago I gave up on trying to do street photography in NYC where there isn't someone taking a picture or talking on the phone, so now I try to see if I can get can get photographs of photographers taking pictures of other photographers talking on the phone. I think I've gotten as many as twelve people taking pictures and six people on the phone in a single photo a few times
If I were taking photos of the civil war reenactors I would be hanging out in the parking lot.


Everyone knows that the difference between pornography and art is the lighting.

I have a lot of problems with the 'Velvia School' (Ward/Cornish/Noton/Waite)simply because, the work seems to me to be the antithesis of much that it is said to be. Rather than recoding and enhancing the beauty and spirit of place they, and more particularly their amateur followers, reduce every place to a representation of the same set of rules. Be it New Zealand, Norway, Scotland or Cornwall, pebbles look pretty similar and, by extension, when you fill 2/3 of the shot with foreground so do all the locations. I started out quite liking this style – Charlie Waite’s colour landscapes were fresh and attractive in the UK photo magazines 10-15 years ago, but diminishing returns set in, for me, after seeing a couple of books.

Where this really starts to get me hot under the collar is the shrill criticism of work like Gursky’s which is dismissed as cold and boring. Rather more than anything, I expect, because it’s in the Tate, etc while the equally technical and cold stylings of this group aren’t. With Ward in particular you can see that he desperately wants to be taken seriously as an artist. Reading his book ‘Landscape Within’ the main message seems to be: I’ve read Sontag and stuff, I’m deep, and I’m a serious Artist.

Which, when you think about it, is’n that much different from where a lot of the supposedly dull, ‘arty’ photographers are coming from as well, is it?

I have always been unmoved by idealised landscape photography, much preferring this sort of photography http://somewhereyouare.blogspot.com/
which, for me, gives a sense of the immediacy & fleetingness of being in a place at a particular time (& which might be classified as landscape photography in the loosest sense).

Traditional landscape photography has never moved me in the same way - at best I might find it admirable, in the same way the design of a car chassis might be admirable.

The question of why some art moves me (or you) and some doesn't is probably too complicated for this particular lunch hour...

Re: Paul Amyes comment below

-- Let's just be grateful for the fact that photography is a broad church and there is room for everything. Lets consign the elitist attitude to where it really belongs ... the bin. If people are happy doing what they do then that's all that matters at the end of the day. --

I wholeheartedly concur.

I have met Charlie Waite a few times. While I unreservedly prefer his work to that of Noton and Cornish, a more dedicated and humble man it's hard to imagine, nor one more tuned in to his audience.

However that's a personal aesthetic preference. Railing against his work, or Noton's, on the basis of preference is like saying Paul Simon is rubbish because you prefer jazz, or declaring jazz to be the only valid form of music.

But jazz is the only valid form of music.

Just kidding. And who's "railing"? Certainly not me.

Mike

@ Stephen S. Mack:

FYI, Elena Filatova's motorcycle ride around Chernobyl has been the subject of considerable controversy since it first surfaced back in 2004. Many people, in fact, are convinced her story is a hoax and offer some fairly compelling evidence in support of their contention, not the least of which is how her site has been revised over the years to remove or tone down certain of her claims.

Do a search for "Elena Filatova hoax" and review the evidence for yourself.

Hmm. I thought choosing what to include and exclude was one of the fundamentals of photography. Here in NYC it's easy to take a snap of someone in a bustling place, like Central Park, and frame other people out so things look peaceful and uncrowded. I actually find it harder to take pictures that communicate just how packed and chaotic the city really is.

This photographer seems to be caught a little in that he is not "chocolate box" enough to be in the traditional calender type market of Waite et al, and yet is still too much of a "Landscape Photographer" to be taken properly seriously by the fine art crowd.

www.harrycorywright.com

Lovely work though.

RP

A shaggy dog of a thread, but fun. I intellectually dislike the Adams school of landscape photography but every time I see an actual Adams print in person it is a very moving experience. In person, his prints strike me less a grandiose statement and more a joyful, bold, and somewhat sly, performance. There is more tension then you'd think there - and this is usually missing from his many admirers who also take photos.

Re: photography...pornifies? Yes, I agree that is the gist. Such critics seem very similar to Sontag in that what they object to, primarily, is the every act of photography itself. It just so happens that much of this criticism is valid. However, that doesn't automatically make it interesting, just as using the term "porn" as a modifier isn't. It's just as easy to be mindless with profundity as it is without it.

In recent years I observed the 'landscape porn' merchants: "workshop" providers, and the their clients--the shooters--making an obsession of the photo-pilgrimage to a southwest location called Antelope Canyon--all of them, it would seem, there to shoot what is essentially the same slot-canyon images. The final fillip came when I learned that these unimaginative, unoriginal "photographers" actually pay extra to have have one of the Navajo guides go up top and shovel dirt down the slot, in order to get the light beams to show in the photos taken below. Funny.

I'm not a photography philosopher or anything like that, but it seems to me that using a derogatory term, such as "porn," to define a pretty landscapes is wrong -- particularly when trying to convey that it lacks merit when compared to another style, like documentary landscapes. Not all landscape photos are documentary or provide commentary or some grandiose idea. Maybe that's okay.

I suspect that liking something that's pretty is different from spending time in the bathroom with a magazine. Calling these landscapes "porn" infers the later.

Mike said

"But jazz is the only valid form of music.

Just kidding. And who's "railing"? Certainly not me."

OK I will give you jazz...as long as PS gets an honourable mention.

And indeed, no railing on your part. Only a little fencing now and again ;)

Steve

I think in these contexts the word just means objectifying something deliberately to indulge a taste you have for it. Not necessarily a big deal, just slang. I don't care for this usage of the word myself.

Mike

At one point in my long and cliched (sorry, I don't know how to do the accent) photographic history, I was so taken with Mr. Adams that I went out with a 4x5 and tried to do the same thing. For at least a year. What I came back with was large format snapshots of trees. So I am pretty sure that he knew something that I don't, and won't ever.

On a lighter subject,
"One could argue that professional photography in general is the skill of the convincing fakeout photo."

My favorite is the universal photo of the hotel room or real estate ad living room taken with a carefully squared-up wide angle lens. The room is just never as big as it looks in the brochure.


I've occasionally wondered about doing a project contrasting idyll with reality (or should that be "landscape porn" and "reality porn"). Titled "180 degrees", it take the form of a series of diptychs. (I think you can get the idea.)

Nothing terribly profound, could be fun, probably a challenge to do well. Maybe the "reality" shot should include photographer, camera and tripod - the landscape looks back!

I gather Niagara Falls would be a good place to start.

Prediction. This article is going to get a lot of hits.

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