It is a typical modern conceit to demand the maximum dimension and maximum power in any aspect of the world—whether men or mountains. The American mode of appreciation is dominantly theatrical—often oblivious of the subtle beauty in quiet, simple things.
A landscape photography master’s commentary on our culture and our art…
Recently a comment on Guy Tal’s blog post, “Non-traditional Answers Part II, Pricing and Editioning” caused me to stop and think about the direction of landscape photography today. Is it degenerating or flourishing or both? In the comment by Mary Kay, first she quoted Guy Tal then followed with her comment:
“I want my work to promote an appreciation for the places and subjects I photograph, and I want it to further the acceptance of nature photography as a form of visual art.”
I’m keeping this among many other treasured words from you. Being such a novice in nature photography I’ve been blissfully ignorant about the opinion our “enlightened scholars” here in Greece hold about landscape photography. Until recently that is. I’ve been meaning to make a summary of most of those opinions and send them to you just to give you “food for journal” and I will at some point do it if you don’t mind. Just let me tell you that this kind of photography is not just ignored but heavily scorned and laughed at. And if someone dares to refer to it as “art” he becomes a target for heavy irony.
Has American landscape photography fallen so far that it is now the object of derision in other countries? On one hand it could be argued that in many ways landscape photography never gained the respect it deserves, but it could also be said that it did have a golden era in the mid 20th Century and has gone downhill since. Some people say it is better now than ever. For more on the controversy over the current era’s merits see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2” and comments on the blog post “Photography’s Golden Era 1.” Today I see a large quantity of what I would call in a judgmental moment, “derivative schlock,” but I also feel that the best images are getting better and better. For more on making images today that are unique see the blog posts, “Moving Past The Repertoire by Greg Russell” and “Make Your Own Tripod Tracks.” It is difficult in some ways to stack my father’s sometimes documentary, natural, straight photographs against photographs made now of natural wonders, wildlife, unusual weather, dramatic lighting, raging wild colors and other combinations, often highly enhanced in Photoshop. For more on the effects of Photoshop and the techniques of Photoshop see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros.” For more on the history of “over-saturation” in landscape photography see the blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” Sometimes I wonder if people will even notice Dad’s quiet, subtlety under the deafening din of the bright, powerful landscape photographs made today. For some reassurance on that score I just read an excellent re-post on Jim M. Goldstein’s Blog called, “The Subtlety of Greatness and Today’s Loss of Appreciation” that refutes the claim made somewhere else that the old masters’ landscape photography is not as good as even today’s amateurs’ work.
How does Ansel Adam’s assertion above apply today to the nature of landscape photographs being made? Are Americans able to learn a new way of being through landscape photography, either through making images or appreciating them? Are Europeans, Australians or Indonesians different?
Does the statement above relate to the nature of images we see in the stock photography market? Galleries? The media?
Does what Ansel Adams said have relevance to the way you select your own photographs?
Please share your thoughts…