On Landscape is a subscription based bi-weekly magazine dedicated to landscape photography from romantic to contemporary. We're all community and we'll feature photographs by all of our readers (and prospectives, if we can convince them!). There is great photography being created everywhere and we want to be one of the best curated galleries to find new talent
I started photographing years ago, as it was just a passion that would allow me to bring home memories of what I was living.
Over time I grew up, changing my mind. I began to appreciate the precious good of “time”, to get the better of the most particular moments, transmitting them firstly in my mind and then to my camera. I appreciate the calm of nature, trying always to learn what it has to teach.
By nature I am a solitary explorer, I love self-challenges. That’s why I do love high mountains (even though the Scottish coasts are ones of the most amazing in the world!). Mountain is so proud, tall, impervious, seductive and mysterious, always ready to be hiked.
Going along across the paths in a wood, feeling the effort running on my back, stopping to catch the breath and admire the landscape that changes around. In silence, sometimes I observe what seems to be a motionless atmosphere. But it is not. Distant sounds, creaks of branches, footsteps of animals that mark the rhythm of nature, the real one. It is reuniting with what we are, hiding from the technological chaos created by man and returning to develop our innate curiosity through the five senses.
Light through Gran Sasso Mountains
I live in Rome and work as an ICT developer. I am often thinking about changing my life, but it is only the lack of courage that still prevents me.
For this reason, as soon as I can, I run away towards what I consider as an ‘open window of the soul’. With photographic backpack always ready, I get in the car, and I run looking for new emotions.
Although I'm essentially an avid photographer of the wilder landscape, in recent years I have become captivated by the more cultivated and tranquil charms of Thorp Perrow Arboretum, Bedale. My visits there began over 30 years ago when it was first opened to the public, but in the last 5 years my relationship with the arboretum has developed to the point where it really is my second home. During this period, I've made more than 150 visits and enjoyed over 700 hours there with my large format camera, shooting exclusively on 5"x4" transparency film.
The current exhibition reveals a small section of that broader work, concentrating exclusively on flowers, their remarkable diversity and individual characteristics. I am very much indebted to Jo Rose, curator of the Joe Cornish Gallery, for suggesting that I focus exclusively on flowers as the theme for the exhibition to complement their summer promotion of the UK cut-flower industry. The selected images do not encompass the huge range of flowers that can be seen at Thorp Perrow, they are simply my most-loved genera and species.
I like to think my approach to floral studies is much the same as any portrait photographer, in that I aim to capture them looking at their finest, in their natural environment and with favourable lighting. For me, this usually entails shooting within a couple of hours of sunrise when the flowers are in prime condition and before the wind rises: wind movement is the most difficult aspect to contend with in close-up large format photography, especially when exposure times are rarely less than 1 sec. My ideal weather conditions are gentle overnight rain followed by the faintest trace of the early morning sun, but if I find these elements together with the perfect subject then I do consider it a real privilege.
Cornus Gloria Birkett
I firmly believe that knowing one's subject well and being passionate about it are key factors in any form of photography and my floral portraits are mostly the result of numerous visits to some of my favourite plants, shrubs and trees, often over several years. They frequently involve lengthy set-up/composition times and extensive waits for the rain to stop, the wind to drop, or the best light. Occasionally, however, they arise from chance encounters with unfamiliar subjects and magical lighting conditions and it's moments such as these that sustain my passion for Thorp Perrow.
I would like to express my gratitude to all of the Ropner family for their consent to hold this exhibition, their support in my photography at Thorp Perrow Arboretum and for their dedication and enthusiasm in restoring and maintaining this special environment for visitors to enjoy.
Floral portraits: Rod Bennington Saturday 28 July - Thursday 30 August 2018 Joe Cornish Gallery, Northallerton
It’s quite possible that we could interview several Karl Mortimer’s – the woodland wanderer, the quarry ghost, or the new minimalist. And that’s without mentioning his alter ego (if you follow him on social media, you’ll know what I’m referring to). Working my way through his website it appears that a more graphic emphasis is coming into his work – his use of the square format, the negative space in his compositions, and his macro minimals. So will the real Karl Mortimer please stand up?
Would you like to tell readers a little about yourself – your education, early interests and career to date?
Monday to Friday most weeks I’m a freelance business consultant, sat in an office with minimal natural light, coaching and mentoring senior managers, helping them develop a strategy or running those hellish workshops with stomach curling icebreakers and team building exercises. I arrived here via a circuitous route starting initially as a geologist, re-educated in IT, with a few brief years as a ‘techie’, before following the standard routes into management and then ricocheting into organisational and transformational change management. It’s no wonder I like to get out with the camera, is it?
So in an attempt to balance the rat race with my own sanity I occasionally manage to spend some time with the camera in hand and exercise those creative impulses and muscles.
How did you first become interested in photography and what kind of images did you initially set out to make?
I first got my hands on a camera as part of my geology studies, using it to document my field studies of outcrops and other geological features. It was an old 35mm Praktica that I foolishly offloaded in a car boot sale some years later, but that simple little camera was how I learned the basics back in the day, a needle to indicate exposure and a split prism for focusing. That largely simple approach to my photography persists to this day strangely when I think about it. I probably use less than 2% of any of my camera’s functions on a regular basis when making my work.
If it is true that we admire the quality in others of which we are most in need then embarrassingly for me, that virtue is courage. Perhaps by writing about Sally Mann I hope to acquire some, through osmosis perhaps, or maybe because her controversial reputation means that any appreciation of her work moves the writer into the firing line.
I have now read her memoir, Hold Still, twice and am pretty sure I could re-read it several more times, never be bored and continue finding new depths and insights. Courage is a such a characteristic of her art that I hope I have learned more about it, both creatively and personally. How many books can move the reader to laughter, tears, shock, physical pain, surprise, delight, frustration, wistful reflection and wonder?
Even if we are visual artists mainly, the pages of Onlandscape have proved for years that photographers can write as well as anyone. (Perhaps that’s just as well in an era when “Everyone’s a photographer, Darling”.) In the foreword of Hold Still Sally Mann claims to be no intellectual, yet this is the work of a brilliantly talented writer. Her story-telling instinct and luminous use of language is equal to the task of weaving key passages in her own life with those of her ancestors and contemporary family. In her case, fact really is stranger than fiction.
How many books can move the reader to laughter, tears, shock, physical pain, surprise, delight, frustration, wistful reflection and wonder?
There is an epic cast of characters, family, friends, heroes and villains. The three main heroes are Sally’s tall, handsome, philosopher husband Larry (Mann); her aloof, complex, artistic and fascinating father, local GP Dr Bob Munger; and the Munger family’s long-suffering black housemaid Virginia Carter (Gee Gee) who’s self-sacrificing saintliness and superhuman resilience is balanced in equal measure. There’s also a beautiful vignette of her neighbour and confidante, the painter Cy Twombly. Of the villains? Well, here she is more restrained, but the power of these portraits gains from what is left unsaid.
Sally Mann’s fame, and notoriety, exists in part because of a body of work from 1991, called Immediate Family. For this long-term project, in which her children are the unifying theme, she used black and white film, a 10x8 inch camera, and deployed the same methodical, tripod-mounted, one frame-at-a-time approach familiar to many of us when making landscape pictures. (Not so familiar for documentary portraits though, when a compact and possibly flash would appear to make sense.) This laborious technique reflects her total dedication. She had the privilege of time and the privacy and pleasure of her family farm as a backdrop. So far so straightforward. But these enigmatic, ambiguous, curious, somewhat sensual, sometimes-staged (sometimes-not) pictures appeared in a world traumatised by revelations of abuse and exploitation, an existential crisis about childhood that remains with us today. Unwittingly, Immediate Family released a cultural firestorm. On the one side were art lovers defending her freedom of expression; on the other were moral guardians for whom any image of a child is potential evidence of evil-doing or psychological-illness.
A unique style emerges in photography by ignoring it, concentrating on the subject, and allowing care, passion and knowledge to bubble to the surface through a lot of hard work over a long period of time.
A common trope in photography is that you need to find your vision (or voice, or personal style, or some other personally-unique quality). Logically speaking, this is an impossible task since, if a person’s vision is different from other people’s visions, then there is nothing out there for one to find. And if you search within but don’t know what your own vision is, how will you recognize it when you find it? If this sounds a bit like a Zen koan, it’s for a good reason. As explained by D.T. Suzuki, “We look for its [Zen’s] secrets where they are most unlikely to be found, that is, in verbal abstractions and metaphysical subtleties, whereas the truth of Zen really lies in the concrete things of our daily life.” Vision, personal style, voice, etc., are not things that you find; they are things that you are.
..if you search within but don’t know what your own vision is, how will you recognize it when you find it?
I never looked for, let alone found, a personal style or a vision. I always assumed that, by virtue of it being my vision and nobody else’s, there is no point in looking—I already have it. So long as I create my photographs according to my own instincts, interests, and aesthetic sensibilities—rather than attempt to imitate others—whatever vision I have will naturally ensue out of my work. Rather than criteria by which I create photographs, I think of my vision simply as a byproduct of creating photographs. Put another way: style, vision, voice, etc., are not things I strive for; they are things that, if I properly express myself in my photographs, other people may find in my work.
“What’s this then?” said the man who’d poked his head around the gallery door. “We’re just hanging an exhibition, it will be opening tomorrow morning” I replied.
“Is it paintings or photographs?” he asked.
“Landscape and still life photography” I said.
“That’s not proper art then is it” he said before walking off.
I recently held my first solo exhibition since returning to landscape photography at the Colonnade House Gallery in Worthing, Sussex. The gallery is part of a large art deco building regenerated by the local council into a creative hub and gallery spaces. Perhaps naively when I booked my slot six months in advance I had very little idea of the sheer amount of work involved in planning and preparing to fill 348 square feet of blank wall and floor space.
When I began to make plans for the show it seemed that an exhibition could hold two pure functions, commercial or artistic. Dominating the preparations was a constant tension between these considerations. Every decision about the exhibition involved weighing up a fine balance between them.
Unusually the opportunity of exhibiting at this venue came before the idea of holding an exhibition to show a specific body of work. The first decision that had to be made then was on the type of work I would exhibit. Would a portfolio show, displaying my ‘best’ but unrelated pictures, or a themed show displaying a consistent body of work be better? From a purely commercial point of view displaying pictures that had already sold well, alongside popular images of landmarks made more sense. From an artistic point of view, a themed show would hang together better in the gallery space. It would also be more visually appealing through a consistency that would lead the visitor around the gallery space.
From an artistic point of view, a themed show would hang together better in the gallery space. It would also be more visually appealing through a consistency that would lead the visitor around the gallery space.
While keen to sell work through the exhibition and use it as an opportunity to increase print sales through my website, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of a purely commercial show. While all art is subjective, landscape photography and the vast differences in the treatment of subjects by individual photographers within the genre is particularly so. What one photographer might consider being their best work, or the work they are most proud of, does not necessarily appeal to others. Buying a framed print to hang on the walls of your home or workplace is a deeply personal experience. Alongside an appreciation of the subject and the photographer’s personal vision, home décor such as wall colour and furnishings influence a buyer’s decision. The mantra that your ‘best’ work will sell falls flat when challenged by people’s individual tastes.
I decided then on a themed show based on a monthly series of nature writing and landscape photography essays that I publish on my website called ‘Echoes from the Landscape’. The inspiration behind the series is to give the viewer a more rounded experience of the physical and emotional experience of spending time in the landscape. This would provide a visual consistency, a narrative for the visitor to follow and a through connection from the gallery to my website. To satisfy the need for a supporting commercial element to the exhibition I could place unrelated work in print racks or as greeting card designs to display my wider portfolio.
With this decision in place, I was able to move on to plan the layout and select prints for display. This was done via low tech 1:10 scale drawings of the floor space and walls. I then arranged cut out scale sketches of prints, helpfully coloured in crayon by my toddler. This guide proved invaluable both in choosing which prints would hang together in terms of colour, subject and shape, and later on during the time-consuming process of hanging the exhibition. I was then able to make test prints of my selection and check the final layout.
Rather than sacrificing displaying a print in its best format for uniformity, I reasoned it would be better both artistically and commercially to choose frames on an individual basis.
When it came to framing work there seemed to be a clear decision between two options. A traditional approach of framing in a uniform black, or frame as I do in my online print sales in oak or black to suit the individual print. A traditional gallery approach would favour the cleaner visual of a line of matching black frames. Unusually here, however, the commercial and the artistic came together. Rather than sacrificing displaying a print in its best format for uniformity, I reasoned it would be better both artistically and commercially to choose frames on an individual basis.
The opposite was true of the decision to use standard or anti-reflection glass. Commercially, anti-reflection art glasses make no sense. They are very expensive, often doubling the cost of a frame. Most people who buy a print won’t consider the huge difference between a standard and an anti-reflection glass. Artistically though the glass will make the print look at its best. Colours and detail are sharper and clearer. If a viewer can read the picture at its best they are more likely to want to buy it. With this in mind, I accepted the reduced profit margin and chose to frame using the anti-reflection glass.
There were so many logistical considerations that choosing which pictures to display and how to frame them turned out to be only a quarter of the workload of exhibiting. How to take card payments, ordering business and greeting cards, ensuring I had enough stock, ordering bags for prints and cards, promoting the exhibition and dressing the rest of the gallery space were all tasks to complete and decisions that had to be made. Even relatively simple tasks such as ensuring each print were labelled required research, testing and making. In the early hours of the day the gallery opened, I found myself retrieving labels that had been left outside to dry, blown around the garden and spray mounted themselves to several bushes.
Looking at completely blank walls and an entirely empty gallery space while hoping that your plans were correct and you have enough work to fill it could make even the most confident photographer nervous.
Promoting the show through invitations, local magazines, tourist websites and social media was one of the most time consuming parts of the process. Despite feeling at times like efforts to attract visitors this way were in vain it did prove to be worth the time invested in it. Throughout the two weeks, lots of people came in and said they had seen the exhibition advertised and promoted on Instagram, Facebook and in the local press.
Walking into the gallery on the day set aside to hang the exhibition was a daunting experience. Looking at completely blank walls and an entirely empty gallery space while hoping that your plans were correct and you have enough work to fill it could make even the most confident photographer nervous. Nearing the end of the six-hour hanging process it became clear that the layout meant there would be a large hole left in the display near the end of one wall. Toward the end of the printing process, I had changed the size of some Foamex backed panels that displayed the nature-writing element of the exhibition. Luckily I had prepared a spare framed print that fitted perfectly into the empty space.
Back in May 2013, Al Brydon was our featured photographer in issue 58. We caught up with Al to hear more about how his 'The dark project' panned out, his new project 'Solargraphs', and his forgotten 20 rolls of film he re-exposed...
CP: You talked about “downgrading’ to your Holga camera and from that, the Holgaroid series developed, tell us more about that. Is the series still ongoing? Do you still use the camera? Have you downgraded again?
AB: Yep. I thought I couldn't reach a new camera based nadir until I did. It got even simpler to the point where I was making cameras out of empty beer tins with a tiny hole for a lens. More on this later though.
Holgaroids was never really meant to be a series. I'd been working on a fairly intensive body of work for roughly two years and I saw the Holgaroids as a way to decompress and simplify my practice. I bought a Polaroid back for that particular camera and just started to make the work.
So much of the work I make is about walking. 'The lost art of walking to nowhere ' became a bit of a mantra for the series as it progressed and I realised it had become something other than a few Polaroids. I'd had been reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville and there was a particular line that I kept going back to. ‘It is not down on any map; true places never are.’ The quest for beauty (or what I think of as beautiful) just made finding it all the more unattainable. It became clear I was looking for something else but that would only be found when I stopped looking.
I finished the series some time ago and gave away the Polaroid back to a friend. She's now creating her work with it and the world keeps turning exactly as it should.
CP: You were working on ‘The dark project’ when we spoke last. How has that project panned out?
AB: It's still ongoing. I originally called the series 'Acyrologia' but found I couldn't pronounce it with any regularity and people quite rightly kept asking what it meant. It was a title too far so it's been scrapped. I think titles and words are what I struggle with the most and I've generally struggled with this body of work on many occasions. I even published it as finished way before it ever was and subsequently removed it from my website until I could think about where it should go.
It was rushed into something it wasn't meant to be. Photographers rarely seem to talk about their failures and mistakes (for obvious reasons I guess) but for the work to become what it has finally become these mistakes had to occur.
It was rushed into something it wasn't meant to be. Photographers rarely seem to talk about their failures and mistakes (for obvious reasons I guess) but for the work to become what it has finally become these mistakes had to occur. I gave it a rest for a year and started shooting for it again last winter. I still struggle with it but I love that it isn't easy. Everything about it is difficult and frustrating. Also, enough time has elapsed for the initial reasons for making the work to have distorted or evolved (depending on how you look at it) into something completely different. I continue to be compelled to make work at night or dusk. Aside from the aesthetic of the photographs, there's something challenging about the process that I clearly enjoy. I usually work very quickly when I'm out but making work for this series takes planning and a level of pre-visualisation I am still unaccustomed to. It's very different to everything else I've done and I've started to include work made during the day too. Hopefully, it'll keep evolving and I'll have something to show you all at some point.
CP: Your Solargraphs series - is that a recent project you’ve been working on? What was the appeal of this project?
AB: Ah, the Solargraphs. They are kind of my main focus at the moment due to the impending book later this year from J.W Editions. For those of you who haven't a clue what a Solargraph is, allow me to furnish you with a bit of info.
A solargraph is a pinhole camera. I make mine from old beer tins with a pinhole placed half way up the can. I then insert a piece of 5x7 standard darkroom paper and tape a makeshift lid on. These are then gaffer taped to something static and left to expose for anywhere between two weeks to a year. Then if I've hidden them well enough and they've not been tampered with I pick them up and hope they've worked.
As with the Holgaroids, these were never meant to be a series. Then again we're something I liked to do when one series had been finished and I was kicking my heels waiting for the next one to spring out of the muddle which is my thought process. That was the initial appeal but the more work I made the 'how' became less important and the 'why' became the all encompassing reason. I started to wonder what the landscape looked like when I wasn't there to experience it. As the exposures for these range from a few weeks to over a year, it is essentially a different Al collecting the can than the Al that had left it. This is in itself pleasing. Plus what's implied in the photographs but isn't actually visible is for me personally is important too. All the animals and insects, other people, any movement other than the arc of the sun (and sometimes moon) isn't actually visible in the finished photograph but it's in there somewhere. I don't want to give too much away. If you're interested you'll just have to buy the book. Or don't see if I care. I do care. Buy the book! I need new socks.
CP: 'Based on a False Story series' -Twenty rolls of film found in a draw and no recollection of what was on them. How did you feel when you re-exposed them and reflected on what you’d taken. Did you feel that you’re photography have evolved if so in what way?
I thought about just getting them processed but then struck upon the idea to re-expose them essentially creating a photographic collaboration with my former self.
This body of work came about when I found around twenty rolls of previously exposed film in a drawer. They'd been exposed between ten and fifteen years ago. I thought about just getting them processed but then struck upon the idea to re-expose them essentially creating a photographic collaboration with my former self.
It was an odd sensation re-exposing them. I felt I was destroying the past. I didn't really know what was on them but I knew there were going to be some irreplaceable photographs in there somewhere. Friends no longer with us etc. I think that the decision to create something new from this destruction was completely the right one. My life now couldn't be more different than the one I led then. It felt like the right thing to do. There wasn't really any pressure in making the new photographs. I just tried to imagine my younger self walking with me while I was making the work and what we'd talk about. Would we have even got along? I could photograph whatever I felt like. It almost didn't matter. It's only when I started to get the work back from the lab that I realised what I had. Total serendipity from a destructive process. I wanted to continue that destruction so after I got the films I kicked them around my cellar for a bit. The scratches and dust offering yet more abstraction and confusion.
I loved the fact there was a finite number of films. Once the last one was gone that was it and the working connection would be severed and I was left with a body of work. I did, however, keep one film back that I will re-expose in another fifteen years time.
As for my work evolving, I'm certainly hoping so. In some cases 15 years had elapsed between each click of the shutter. I must admit it's difficult to express how it has evolved. I always feel like I'm just beginning with photography., I like feeling this way. I never want it to feel like a journey completed. There's something to be learnt from everyone and I want to keep learning. That quest for 'fame and glory' certainly diminishes as the years zip by. Ego's deflated (in some cases) and I find myself just wanting to make the work. That's it.
CP: You said in your featured photographer interview “Retrospective revelations about what I was thinking can be fairly illuminating and may then influence the next set of photographs. Building upon old ideas and taking them somewhere else seems to have allowed an evolution to the work.” Based on the last story, do you think your reflections on this have helped shape your recent work?
You can only draw on your own life and experiences when creating something you feel is important enough to share with other people.
CP: All the work I've ever made has informed the current or recent work. It can't do. You can only draw on your own life and experiences when creating..
There is no truth in photography, only honesty - Giles Duley
The role of realism in photographs, as discussed in Guy Tal’s recent article on the morality and realism in photography, is as provocative as it is elusive. Guy’s article, whilst impeccably written and well received, stimulated debate and discussion both on our website and amongst many of my colleagues. I wanted to express some of the ideas and reactions I had on reading the article and try to dig out what it is about an “anything goes” default position that I find disturbing.
Post processing - the red herring
The most obvious and first point to discuss is possibly the biggest red herring in the whole discussion of truth/realism in photography, and that is post-processing. There seems to be a widely held view that no post-processing is equivalent to truth and the more post-processing you do, the more your work veers away from reality. This view is responsible for more arguments and dissent in the photographic community than any other.
The problem with this argument is that some photographic post-processing can make images more truthful and some images with no post processing can be quite deceiving.
The problem with this argument is that some photographic post-processing can make images more truthful and some images with no post processing can be quite deceiving. For instance, the use of white balance to make an image match what the eye saw brings an image closer to a representation of reality whereas images rendering weak aurora displays as vivid green have led many an arctic visitor to feel deceived and ultimately disappointed (more about this in a future article about the ‘truth of aurora photography’).
Another example of the way a straight photograph lies is the use of wide angle lenses. The eye does not see like this and early viewers of photography were confused at the resulting images. However, using warp distortions to fix the perspective of a fisheye lens could be perceived as making it more truthful.
In short, global vs local post-processing, cloning vs none, saturation levels etc are not 'bad' in and off themselves. It's always contextual.
Modern viewers of photography are a lot more savvy about what is ‘normal’ in terms of post-processing. We see so many images that have graduated filters to make the sky a bit darker, sun stars due to lens aperture choices, seeing into shadows that would perhaps be almost black in real life. This has been going on since the early days of photography and yet we don’t think these are ‘lying’ as such.
So, what is a better foundation on which to discuss the role of ‘truth’ and photography? In my opinion, a much better criterion is, perhaps, the perceived feeling of deception in the viewer.
Feelings of deception and the implicit contract
The viewers feeling of deception is at the heart of most of the arguments we end up having when we’re talking about realism and photography.
This negative reaction is at the heart of most of the arguments we end up having when we’re talking about realism and photography. This is obviously subjective and will vary from person to person. However, let's analyse some situations from this perspective. Before we do, let me be clear that I don’t intend to relate any feeling of deception in the eyes of the viewer with an intent to deceive by the photographer!
There is a term used to describe the expectations of a viewer when presented with something. This term is the “implicit contract” and in legalese terms, this is the ‘fair’ expectation that what you are being presented with meets certain criteria even though there is no explicit contract.
For instance, when people first found out that many of the photographs on the fronts of fashion magazines had been manipulated heavily to make the models seems slimmer and smoother of skin, the typical person felt cheated or deceived to some extent. There was a broad assumption that what was presented was inherently truthful. Even though there was nothing in the magazines that promised to represent their models truthfully and no intent to deceive, there was an implicit contract between the magazine producers and the readers that this was so and when this contract was broken, the magazine’s readers felt deceived.
This implicit contract is really all about managing viewer expectations. If you think your audience is going to expect a ‘straight’ photograph and you present them with a heavily post-processed one, they will possibly react negatively when they find out. Likewise, you can post a straight photograph of an amazing sunset on a website known for it’s OMG! Wow! Digital Art concoctions and you shouldn’t be surprised if people yawn at your photo in comparison with its neighbouring confections.
So, were a photographer to want to honour this ‘implicit contract’ with their viewers, the biggest hurdle to overcome is to work out what their audience accepts as ‘non-deceptive’ photography. This raises a pretty big hurdle - what does the average person think photography really is!
What an Audience expects from Photograph
One of the aspects of Guy’s article revolves around the definition of photography, calling on dictionary and encyclopedic quotations. These sorts of definitions should be handled with caution as there is a great deal of difference between the ‘bounds’ of what ‘could’ be considered photography and the general layperson’s idea of what photography is.
In fact, in other artistic practices, there are quite rigid guidelines that bound what makes a watercolour or an oil painting. Some purist watercolourists would baulk at the use of gouache to lift their whites (body colour) and the addition of oils to a watercolour painting would cause apoplexy in some quarters.
So perhaps we need to call some works that have been heavily manipulated and ‘painted’, “mixed media” or “digital art” instead of photography? Personally, I don’t think it matters. Arguing the bounds of word definitions is a form of sophistry that has never really solved anything. However, I do think that there is a point at which many people would say an extensively processed image breaks the accepted idea of what a photograph is. Whether this then becomes Mixed Media or Digital Art is irrelevant but they certainly warrant an explanation if the images appear in the context of photography and we want to manage our audience's expectations.
The Variation in Audience and Context
There is a small problem in trying to work out where these boundaries sit anyway. For example, different audience groups will have different levels of acceptance of manipulation/deception
There is a small problem in trying to work out where these boundaries sit anyway. For example, different audience groups will have different levels of acceptance of manipulation/deception and additionally, the context in which the image is found further informs the audience's expectations. For instance, an older audience may well expect a photograph to be fairly ‘straight’ whereas a younger audience may accept that photoshopped pictures are becoming the norm.
Also, if an image is found in a guidebook for a national park, the images therein would be thought to have a level of veracity that perhaps would not be expected in a wordless ‘fine art’ portfolio.
We live in an age of unparalleled consumerism and gluttony, but the human race's insatiable appetite isn't just limited to the physical. It extends to the digital world as well. We are bombarded with dozens of gorgeous images every day on social media, leaving us always craving the next grand vista or the next moment of magical light.
So when I was contacted by Charlotte from On Landscape to cover one of their End Frame articles I thought choosing an image would be the easy part. How wrong I was. Over a month later I still hadn't made a decision, but it wasn't for the reason you might expect.
Obviously, the choice was overwhelming, but the vast majority of these were images I'd seen in the last few weeks. How could I be sure that these images would stick with me when so many before them hadn't? Very few images these days stick with you, so it takes something truly special to etch itself into your mind.
The one set of images that I kept coming back to in my mind was Scott Robertson's series from Boreray, a small island just north of the incredibly isolated St Kilda archipelago in the Outer Hebrides.
When I say isolated I mean it in the truest sense of the word. St Kilda hasn't been home to a permanent population in almost a hundred years now and it sits over 40 miles away from the rest of the Outer Hebrides. I have never been to the St Kilda archipelago, but thanks to Scott's enormous efforts I feel like I have.