This week I have immersed myself in Land Matters by Liz Wells, What Photography is by James Elkins, re read Ways of Seeing by John Berger plus his chapter on Susan Sontag in How To Read A Photograph and finally Photography Theory by David Bate. In search of photographs that are beautiful but also speak a new truth about the land we live in I found Altered Landscapes by Lucy R Lippard. Throw in some week 11 lectures on criticality and a lecture from Sam Laughlin and my head is full.
Some messages I have got are that…
- photography is about beauty and truth
- photography has spoken on behalf of the ruling classes following on from a tradition set by painting
- photography has become a servant of capitalism
- so many photographs are ‘of’ subjects rather than ‘about’
- I have been conditioned by my social programming to take photographs in the way that I have
- there is little control over how a photograph anyone takes will be used
- I have a lot to learn
To date my work has been for me as audience, pictorially and realism based, seeking to achieve sublime beauty in landscapes. The above is a picture I would not have taken before but interests me now. Previously this lacked any interest as a beautiful landscape so would not have attracted me as a subject. Now I see an image filled with evidence of human impact on the land and the ongoing fight between nature and man. The foreground has been sculpted by unemployed workers on a project to make paths around this hill top for weekend walkers. The fence that has been erected has been blown down by strong winds and erosion from heavy rainfall. Nature fights with mankind. Down below is the town of Pedreguer nestling below the mountains behind. For the moment it has claimed this space for human consumption. The mountains behind are liminal space which was wild, then was used for olive, almond and grape growing and now is returning to the wild or as a place criss crossed with paths for walkers.
To look at the picture is not attractive to me but it does begin to speak a truth about the world rather than focussing on beauty. I can now work on ways of bringing more out of an image like this so that it can tell the truth but also keep the viewers eye interested.
This is taken at the same time. Now we start to get over the idea of change of space in a visually more interesting way.
Here I go one step further and impose a human face barely visible over the image of Pedreguer.
I am not going to stop taking images that give myself and other people pleasure. I will continue to improve my skills and seeing to produce beautiful images. However, for my project I do intend to explore what ‘meaningful’ ‘truth’ my photography can reveal. This is going to be a journey which will end up I know not where.