A Problem with Landscape Photography
I have friends and colleagues who are curators and gallery owners who are bored to death with most present day landscape photographs and I think I know why. I got a hint of this while watching a landscape photography "how to" video on You Tube the other day. I am not going to name the teacher but it was about as bad as anything I've ever seen.
You've probably seen them. They sound like:
-The 10 best ways to shoot travel photos
-10 killer tricks for landcape shots
-The 10 best ways to bring back the photos your friends will love
-Leo Lapaluzi's 10 ways to make your landscapes snap
-10 Photoshop tricks to make your photos sizzle
and so on.
They are usually sold and promoted as being by some photo "guru", some all knowing "master" of the landscape photograph. The last thing the world needs is another oversaurated Monument Valley sunset picture or another "awe inspiring" slot canyon photograph. This takes me down another path and that is the one that says you too can make pictures just like this with me as your "guide". Yuk!. The key is when the teacher shows you slide after slide of "killer" pictures he made when he was teaching the workshop in "name your exotic locale". The idea, of course, is that you can emulate him (always a "him") by just paying the fee of something like $1500 for three days; lodging, meals and airfare not included. This results in 12 photographers standing in a row shooting the same great "scene". Give me a break. Trophy landscape photography. Art? Not in any definition I have. Actually, gives landscape photography a bad name, I think.
How about this. Go someplace, try to tune into what is there and what you can say about what is there. Try to really look and understand. Try to grasp an inkling of a place's history, culture, resonance and presence. Do some homework perhaps. Research a little. Make your pictures of place through some knowledge rather than first impression or to impress friends back home. Do "Art" proud. Share your innate intelligence with us. Make a contribution and work to extend the medium and also the viewer's sensibilities. Share freely but do not add just another generic cliché, please. Innovate if you can. Be fresh rather than standard. Emote but for Christ's sake don't be cloying, an overtly and sappy romantic, or assume that sterile minimalism means substance, for it probably won't. What's that leave you? Honesty, mostly. You can do a lot worse than being clean and straight and not obtuse. Not clear what something says very often results in it not meaning much. Take a risk but don't pander, condescend or disrespect your audiences' intelligence. After all, who anointed you as being superior?
Sorry. Kind of a rant here. I am not sure the World Wide Web has helped photography that much because it has produced a community of know-it-alls that are really terrible and who show off. So many more photographs now in this digital age means so many more bad photographs from bad photographers. Maybe because of the web we are subjected to more of it as it all can flow into our desktop by just Googling "landscape photography".
Where do you go to find good landscape photography? Sorry if this dates me but here: Frederick Sommer, Ansel Adams (yes, he was very very good), Joe Deal, Edward Weston and his son Brett, Robert Adams, Wynn Bullock, Edward Ranney, Eliot Porter, Andreas Gursky, Emmet Gowin, Linda Connor, William Clift, Eugene Atget, Henri Cartier Bresson, Harold Jones, Todd Walker, and on and on. So many greats. I am sure you have your own list.
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