From: shannon stoney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 09/03/02-08:13:53 AM Z
>I sometimes think that there is a generational gap when it
>comes to opinions in this matter. When i've spoken to my photo teachers and
>some older friends, they tell me they really enjoy landscape photography.
>but when i speak to younger photographers and artists, they say they think
>landscape photography is pointless and boring and overdone.
>I'm in the middle of the road on this one. I like landscape photography.
>although i consider it somewhat boring, personally, to shoot landscapes. I
>can find beauty in landscape photography, and i think some photographers
>are really good at making unique landscape photos. But generally i find
>what does everyone think? is this a generational gap? if so, why? i think a
>lot of it has to do with younger artists trying to rebel against what they
>look at as 'not edgy enough'.
This is a good question. I've thought about it a lot because I do
landscapes almost exclusively, I guess like a lot of large format
users. Weirdly, though, in my (former) circle it is the opposite of
what you describe: it's the older teachers who seem to think
landscape is boring and old-fashioned, whereas the younger students
want to do it but think that the teachers will think it's not "edgy"
enough. So if you did it, you had to be able to defend your reasons
for doing it.
About a year ago I wanted to find out what postmodernism was all
about, and I asked a person who knew more about it, and one of the
suggestions he had was to look into the New Topographics people from
the seventies. Strictly speaking they may not be postmodernists, but
they were people who were re-thinking the whole landscape issue at
that time. They included people like Mark Klett and Robert Adams, and
there was a show of their work in NYC sometime in the seventies. I
could never find the catalog of that show, but there have been
several issues of Aperture in the last 30 years or so dealing with
contemporary takes on the landscape issue and idea. You might find
some of those back issues relevant to your questions about what
contemporary landscape photography concerns are. Also any of Robert
Adams' writings might be helpful. There is a book of essays called
Why People Photograph and another one called Beauty in Photography.
I wrote a couple of papers about landscape photography in the 19th
and 20th centuries, and after about a year of thinking about it and
working in that genre, I have sort of settled into a way of working
that I think is contemporary but honors the tradition of landscape
photography: I try to look at the human interaction with the
landscape. That is, I hardly ever photograph pristine untouched
landscapes, partly because they don't exist much any more and if they
do, they require a lot of driving to get to. Mostly I photograph the
landscape where I live in Tennessee, where it's a rural landscape
altered by humans, certainly, for their own use, but not entirely
under human control. A lot of it is quite wild and weedy. I also am
photographing the urban landscape here in Houston, where humans have
paved over almost everything, but wild things find a way to poke up
through the cracks. The contrast between these two environments that
I go back and forth between is part of what keeps me interested I
think. Also I think there's something to be said for simply
photographing your home, where you walk every day.
So I guess I"m saying I think there's a way to do landscape
photography that is relevant, contemporary, and even "edgy."
Certainly issues having to do with the environment and the way humans
use the earth are at the center of people's concerns these days. To
say that landscape is somehow "over" and too old-fashioned misses
that point. Sometimes I think that urban people are too absorbed with
the human world to even notice that there is another, non-human world
out there. That is a kind of urban provincialism that belies the
notion that urban people are by definition more sophisticated and in
touch with the real world than rural people. It all depends on what
you mean by "the real world."
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