The Gallery Context

Traditionally the photograph has been considered in terms of a print, and the high point of recognition for a photographer being an exhibition of their prints in a Fine Art Gallery. Galleries may present very different types of space in terms of lighting conditions, amounts and shape of space and general ‘feel’. But a tendency has been to galleries presenting white ‘neutral’ space. However the apparent ‘neutrality’ of this space needs to be questioned in terms of the implicit meanings this imposes on the image and the presumed ’empty mind’ of the viewer.

I would argue that a more interesting approach would be to acknowledge the importance of both context and the viewer’s life experience in giving meaning to the image, as valuable and integral parts of the art itself. This could mean displaying the same image in different conditions and explicitly promoting discussion of the ways that different life perspectives and everyday experiences of different viewers affect the meanings attributed. This could in turn lead photographers to discover ever more interesting perspectives and innovative approaches to their own work.

For the moment I do not have the equipment or skills to produce for gallery exhibition.

 5.1 The Origins of the White Cube

Photobooks: Inspiration

Types of Photobook

Surveys and catalogues

  • catalogues for exhibitions
  • ‘Survey’ publications draw together a collection of individual images or a group of practitioners working in a similar area. Some surveys seem more didactic or
    directed at the art market, such as 50 Photographers You Should Know (2008), Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography (2009), reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow (2005) and reGeneration 2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today (2010).

Monographs and artists’ books

Monographs are mass-produced (relatively speaking), but often they are the primary context for the photographic work. A monograph published to coincide with an exhibition of an artist’s work may  draw together several different bodies of work, but it will be devoted to one practitioner alone.

An artist’s book may be produced in editions, but is generally more individual in terms of its design, the materials used and the printing technique or finish. Some may be printed, stencilled, stitched and embossed by the maker themselves. Others will be a collaboration with a professional bookbinder and a graphic designer.

Early photobooks

Many of these were topographic images for travel and tourism.

  • Francis Frith photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • John Thomson photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • Maxime Du Camp (1822–94)
  • Auguste Salzmann (1824–72)
  • Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819–96) published The Yosemite Book in 1868.

Some developed more innovative design

  • Soviet and Fascist propaganda books with novel design features, such as fold-out pages that extend the dimensions of an image

Inspiration

I have a large collection, but not had time to look through or properly review apart from getting some layout ideas.

Colour

  • Martin Parr: documentary photographer. Some of his works have been mass produced and re-printed (e.g. The Last Resort, 1986 and 1998); others have been limited editions or even more exclusive artist’s books such as Cherry Blossom Time in Tokyo, 2001. See: www.martinparr.com/books/. Layout in Last Resort has one, or very occasionally two, large images per spread, with white margin around and no border. This focuses attention on the content of the socially complex saturated colour images. There is a short introductory text at the beginning.
  • Paul Seawright : Invisible Cities a very large hardback book of colour images. Some images are full bleed crossing the whole spread, sometimes with some space to one side or top/bottom. Other spreads have only one half page image generally placed full bleed to one corner with the rest of the spread as white space. There is a text introduction to African cities at the beginning.
  • Urbex ‘Beauty in Decay’ this has beautiful limited palette images . The book is divided into chapters with some introductory text. But the book is mostly large images with  whitespace. Some images and spreads are on black background. A few text passages are on beige background. Some have black or white boders and vignettes to increase contrast.

Black and white

  • Daido Moriyama  Tales of Tono – small portrait format book of very high contrast black and white images. Full bleed in landscape across a double spread on black background. This makes the abstract flashes of white shapes in the often barely readable images standout. Text is reserved for a narrative section at the end. I like the moodiness of this book and all the images demand close attention in themselves, as well as producing an overall edgy impression as a apparently random narrative.
  • Algirdas Seskus ‘Love Lyrics’ Lithuanian 149 contrasty documentary Black and White images in landscape format. No text except the number of each photo and date. One or two large images per spread. No border with generous white margin.
  • Arunas Baltenas  Vilnius  2007 images from 1987. Small misty sepia images one per spread with no border and lots of white space. Delicate handwritten titles and date. One page introduction in English and Lithuanian at the beginning. No other text. I find the delicate nostalgia of this book really beautiful.
  • Henri Cartier Bresson in India  Thames and Hudson. 1987 with forward by Bengali film director Satyajit Ray. One large black and white photo per page with short caption. Black border on white paper. Occasionally one large and one small. The images themselves are quite low contrast. The black border makes the eye focus inwards.

At the Brighton Photography Biennial I saw a lot of interesting innovative designs, but did not have time to note all the details.

  • David Galjaard Concresco. A book about Albania. Has a brown opening cover with short explanatory text. Then  double page spreads with small white text insert pages. For this and other work see his website: http://www.davidgaljaard.nl
  • Dara McGrath ‘Deconstructing the Maze’  This has two coloured photographs on one side and page of text on the other. The strength here is in the photos. For this and other work see his website http://www.daramcgrath.com/index.html
  • Xavier Ribas  ‘Concrete Geographies’.  Photos of concrete blocks in Barcelona. See his website: http://www.xavierribas.com. This has inside views and links to vimeos of other books like Sanctuary – no text, one photo per spread. Sometimes a cross-over image. But the onscreen resolution is not good enough to really see the images.
  • Alessandro Rota A Neocolonialist’s diary.  Small paisley pattern cover. Coloured photos of sheets in Lusaka. Dark night streets. Lights. See his website . And vimeo of the book. https://vimeo.com/28099164
  • Irene Siragusa ‘Six weeks in Dublin’.   Lots of photos of spattered blood. Small juxtaposed rectangular images. website

Unknown author/title glimpsed over other peoples’ shoulders:

  • Book with glued images folded.
  • Aids (author???).  Small and simple brown cover. Photos of slits one on a page opposite a blank page.

 Sources and overviews

  • The Photobook: A History, Volumes I,  ll and III Gerry Badger and Martin Parr
  • The Chinese Photobook: Martin Parr and Wassink Lundgren from the Photographer’s Gallery exhibition
  • Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s Ryuichi Kaneko and Ivan Vartanian
  • Channels on YouTube and Vimeo with videos of certain books;
  • Tate video about William Klein which shows his assistant with one of Klein’s early maquettes:
  •  José Navarro discussing OCA students’ photobooks

OCA Student links

Joe Wright

Assignment 5: Perspectives on Kyrgyztstan

Time-based audio-visual presentations

Like books, slideshows have a very ‘linear’ narrative, even more so than the photobook. The creator is in control of the order in which viewers see images and therefore has greater control over the meanings generated.

Victorian ‘magic lantern’ shows –  idea of projecting a photographic image onto a surface for a temporary duration rather than creating a hard copy to be exhibited

1960s, 70s and 80s  slideshow screenings at amateur international competitive events. Specialist equipment was developed, whereby two slide projectors would be automated (in terms of duration and opacity of each slide) whilst also playing a stereo soundtrack, all controlled by a domestic cassette tape.

Automated displays of photographs as for example web galleries are now very common. Slideshow galleries on WordPress and SmugMug, the Slideshow module in Lightroom and iPhoto, as well as Windows consumer software, make it easy to compile this type of automated slideshow quickly and easily. But these are limited – the main control being over the images themselves: which images are show in which order, manipulation of each image to vary the effect of eg colour, viewpoint and crop, sequencing to vary these effects in a meaningful way, and the content and style of any titles and text to reinforce or challenge the meaning in the image. Some software like lightroom Slideshow module allows narration, sound and/or music and mixing of photos with video.

More considered audio-visual presentations can be both works of art in themselves, and/or more effective as a means of promoting still images. Here the creator takes more control of the relative timing of viewing of each image – some take longer and some less time. There are also different types of transition. Effects can be superimposed to change the image – zooming and panning, changing colour and focus as each image is viewed, multiple images shown at the same time.

Software used include:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Premiere
  • Adobe Animate
  • Adobe After Effects

This means that substantial numbers of images can be combined – some similar and some contrasting to enhance a narrative.

The boundary between video and still photography is becoming increasingly blurred. As high definition video is becoming a standard feature of both consumer and professional DSLRs, and shooting video is becoming more intuitive to digital photographers, it is likely that clients will start to expect photographers to offer video as well as still images.

YouTube and Vimeo are two places where video content and slideshows saved in a video format (.mov or .mp4) can be self-published.

Examples

  • Urbex: Beauty in Decay
  • Chris Leslie: slideshows of ‘Disappearing Glasgow’ with photos, background music and interviews. I find these very evocative as a social documentary portrait. These are in a linked series on vimeo – start with  https://vimeo.com/29799259
  • Xavier Ribas  ‘Concrete Geographies’.  Photos of concrete blocks in Barcelona. See his website: http://www.xavierribas.com. This has inside views and links to vimeos of other books like Sanctuary – no text, one photo per spread. Sometimes a cross-over image. But the onscreen resolution is not good enough to really see the images.
  • Alessandro Rota A Neocolonialist’s diary.  Small paisley pattern cover. Coloured photos of sheets in Lusaka. Dark night streets. Lights. See his website . And vimeo of the book. https://vimeo.com/28099164
  • Foto8 Magazine has many powerful photo-only documentary stories with music.

More video-based:

  • Magnum in Motion and the subscription-based Mediastorm have powerful documentaries that mix video (often slow-motion and photo-like) and animated or still photos with narrative voice over.
  • 1 in 8 Million (New York Times) has a video gallery with video/photo mixes linked to videos with personal stories of varied New Yorkers.
  • Duckrabbit does training as well as producing documentaries blending moving as well as still images.

Less effective I thought were:

For links to my own work so far see: Create a slideshow. But this needs more work – when I have less work and risk of RSI.

Audio-visual pieces – some points to consider

(adapted from Course Guide)

Some of the design tips for photobooks, most notably rhythm and sequencing, are equally relevant here.

  • Rationale: What is the purpose of the slideshow? What is the main concept? Who is it for? Why do you want to present your work in a slideshow? Is a slideshow the most appropriate treatment of the work? If there’s a lot of content within the frame, will the viewer have enough time to ‘read’ the image at the given pixel dimensions?
  • Selection and Editing: Edit your work strictly.  Do all the images sit comfortably next to each other. Do any seem out of place? Can this be resolved, or should they be omitted? How long will your slideshow be? If it’s intended solely for on-line use, then it will probably need to be shorter than a piece that will be shown on a loop in a gallery.
  • Sequencing: Sequencing is paramount: consider how certain images relate to each other (graphically as well as in terms of the ‘connotations’ of an image, or the juxtaposition of images within the sequence).
  • Text: Will you use text? What will you say? Will the text complement and reinforce the images, or challenge the viewer through contrast or contradiction?What typeface and style will you use?
  • Sound: Consider the relationship between the sound and your images? Have you got relevant audio and/or textual material to accompany the images? If not, what could you look for?  Adobe Audition and Sony’s Acid Music are quite easy to use giving music loops to combine and layer to compose your own simple music tracks. Websites such as http://freemusicarchive.org  offer copyright-free audio tracks for non-commercial use.

African Photography

Images of Africa by Western photographers have been plagued by photographs of starving children, war, wildlife photography, tourist landscapes and portraits of African tribes exoticizing the “dark continent.” But Africa for the past few years has been immersed in digital technology and culture and the digital age in Africa can now be witnessed through art and photography.

Key Questions

Is there an ‘African’ style?? subject matter, perspectives, colours, line

or just individual photographers who happen to come from Africa?

Hotshots: Africa’s most exciting new photographers 

Jepchumba 2013 Jepchumba, originally from Kenya, is founder and creative director of African Digital Art, which is dedicated to African digital media and art. 

Zanele Muholi, South Africa: “visual activist.” Her photography often takes on subjects that are taboo and unspoken in parts of Africa and Muholi is renowned of her groundbreaking portraits of the lives of gay women in South Africa.

Hélène Amouzou, Togo: series of self portraits taken in the attic of her home.

Nii Obodai, Ghana:  “Who Knows Tomorrow?”  book offers his take on the contemporary visual representation of Ghana.

Mutua Matheka, Kenya: one of the founders of Kenya 365, a 365-day project inviting Instagramers to take photos of Kenya, chronicling the changing Kenyan landscape and how economic and technology growth has influenced the country.

Lakin Ogunbanwo, Nigeria: visually provocative imagery of fashion culture in Nigeria.

Dillon Marsh, South Africa: travel throughout Southern Africa where he documents various places, experimenting with the strange uniqueness of familiar neighborhoods and landscapes.

Emeka Okereke, Nigeria: founder of Invisible Borders, a road trip project that invites artists and photographers to go on a journey to explore new images of the continent throughout West Africa.

Michael Tsegaye, Ethiopia: Traversing through remote parts of Ethiopia, Tsegaye’s portfolio displays wide ranging social issues that affect the people in the country. Tsegaye has done many fantastic photo series, including “Working Girls,” a photo essay on the lives of sex workers in Addis, as well as “Future Memories” — a series that chronicles the urbanization of various neighborhoods in Addis Ababa.

 Encounters PICHA Biennale 

2010: selected by Simon Njami: Adama Bamba (Mali), Dimitri Fagbohoun (Togo), Jellel Gasteli (Tunisia), Kiluanji Kia Henda (Angola), Kiripi Katembo Siku (D.R.Congo), Mouna Karray (Tunisia), Pierrot Men (Madagascar), Zineb Sedira (Algeria), Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa) in photography; Bili Bidjocka (Cameroon), Jimmy Ogonga (Kenya), Kader Attia (Algeria), Moataz Nasr (Egypt), Myriam Muhindou (Gabon) in video art.

 Bamako African Photography Encounters (French: Rencontres africaines de la photographie) is a biennial exhibition in Bamako, Mali since 1994. website links to photographers do not work. But under each biennial you can find lists of prize-winners.

The 6th annual African Photography Encounters  2005, with the theme of “Another World.” The prizes awarded were:

The jury also honored Ranjith Kally (South Africa) for his life’s work.

Assessment

There is here a clear difference between photographers who are really engaged – with privileged and deep communication with their subject and environment, They are able to get very raw and moving images.

And others who are obviously from a more sheltered social background and tend to follow Western voyeurism and exoticism – but often less technically adept.

Images of Africa by Western photographers have been plagued by photographs of starving children, war, wildlife photography, tourist landscapes and portraits of African tribes exoticizing the “dark continent.” But Africa for the past few years has been immersed in digital technology and culture and the digital age in Africa can now be witnessed through art and photography.

Landscape and Identity

The concept of ‘identity’ is central to most landscape photography – the cultural, historical, ecological and industrial factors shaping identities of people and places and the ways in which the two interact. ‘Identity’ is however not fixed. Individuals and groups of people are continually trying to reconcile multiple and changing identities as a means of making sense of their place in the world. Identities are constantly manipulated and contested by others in political processes. In the same way, meanings of ‘landscape’ and symbolic associations of places are also multi-layered, changing and often manipulated in attempts to shape power relationships between people and groups of people and peoples’ control over and use of ‘nature’ and other resources.

In deciding how to portray particular landscape/s key considerations are:

  • Who created, owns, uses and changes this landscape? How do these people relate to each other?
  • How is this ‘landscape’ distinguished from other similar places (who decides what is and what is not similar? by what criteria? why are those criteria important?)?
  • How do (different) users and inhabitants of a place feel towards (different aspects of) the landscape (pride, indifference, disrespect, fear of loss)?
  • What attitudes do (which) outsiders have towards it?

Underlying all these considerations must also be a consideration of:

  • How are these feelings, identities and relationships manipulated, why and by whom? (See Part 3 landscape as political text)
  • Self-awareness on the part of the photographer of their own identity/ies and assumptions and power/desire (or lack of it) to manipulate and change things.

See posts:

Dana Lixenberg’s:  Last Days of Shishmaref
Jacob Aue Sobol’s work Sabine (2004)

‘British-ness’, collective identities and the countryside

“The concept of the countryside is a significant element of the British identity. All countries have rural areas, but Britain’s is one of its ‘unique selling points’.” (Alexander p119)

 4.2: The British landscape during World War II

Attitudes towards social issues like renewable energy or housing policy are often polarised by ‘Not in My Back Yard’ ‘visual impact’ on the land according to rather idealised ‘picturesque’ notions of what the landscape used to/should look like.

Personal identities and multiculturalism

British photographers have questioned established and stereotyped images of the British landscape and its heritage. Photographers like Godwin and Darwell manipulate aesthetics of the image, beauty in texture, pattern and atmosphere to keep the viewer’s attention – then guide it to pose more challenging and shocking questions about the landscape and peoples’ relationship to it. The effort of extracting meaning in this way also makes the images more memorable. See posts:

  • Immigration and race:  Ingrid Pollard and Simon Roberts.
  • Access to the countryside:  Fay Godwin
  • Environmental pollution and degradation: John Darwell Dark Days (2001 Foot and Mouth Outbreak).
  • Relationship with animals: Clive Landen: sharp documentary style and brutal but images of death in Abyss (2001 Foot and Mouth Outbreak) and Familiar British Wildlife (series on roadkills).

4.3 A subjective voice

Roland Barthes

 

Roland Barthes was a structuralist, with a particular interest in the semiotics of language and images. Semiotics can be described as the ‘science of signs’. A semiotic analysis of an image or a piece of film is the quantification of how meaning is constructed or a message is communicated.
Before writing ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ Barthes wrote the essay ‘Myth Today’ (1972), in which he described two levels of meaning: sign and myth.
• The first level of meaning, sign, comprises a signifier and a signified – or a denoted object (the actual thing depicted) and the connoted message (what the thing depicted communicates).
• The second level of meaning, myth, takes into account the viewer’s existing contextual knowledge that informs a reading of the image.
This is a simplified description of Barthes’ system, which doesn’t apply exclusively to photographic images. In ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, Barthes uses the first level of meaning to read an advert for a French grocery company, Panzani.

This table roughly summarises Barthes’ discussion of the signs he identifies in the Panzani advert. In his essay, Barthes doesn’t explicitly refer to the second level of meaning, myth, although he does mention cultural stereotypes or assumptions that inform the consumption of this advertisement: the more Mediterranean lifestyle of “shopping around” for fresh groceries, as opposed to “the hasty stocking up… of a more ‘mechanical’ civilisation”. Barthes also points
out that:
• Recognition of the still life tradition in this image is dependent upon particular cultural knowledge.
• The image is read as an advert. The fact that the context is a magazine, and the pictorial emphasis on the product labels, influence how the overall picture is read.
• These signs are “not linear”; they are consumed holistically (Barthes, 1977, pp. 32–37).
Although the landscape doesn’t feature in this advert, it refers to the bounty of the countryside.
Here we see the brand attempting to align itself to the stereotype of a lifestyle which is – as Barthes saw it – the very essence of the country, as summarised by his made-up word, ‘Italianicity’. It is very much an image of Italian identity, from a French perspective.

An excellent example of the dissection of an advert is by Roland Barthes in his essay ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ (1977).
See: http://98.131.80.43/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/barthes_rhetoricofimage.pdf

The course so far has touched upon commercial applications of the landscape image, and how ideas and ideologies have been attached to particular landscapes. Nowhere are these two things conflated more explicitly than within the sphere of advertising, where landscape imagery is aligned with particular brand values and identities. Understanding how advertising imagery is constructed is essential if you intend to practise photography commercially. Even if you’re not interested in the commercial sector, exploring advertising imagery is a very good exercise in understanding how meaning is constructed and mediated by the photographic image.

 

Landscape and Gender

Some early women photographers did do serious topographical work in the late nineteenth and early 20C:

  • Evelyn Cameron,
  • Laura Gilpin,
  • Frances Benjamin Johnson
  • Elizabeth Ellen Roberts

Artistic photography, continuing the ‘genteel’ occupations for lady sketchers and watercolourists, was also conducted by:

  • Anna Atkins
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Lady Hawarden
  • Lady Elizabeth Eastlake

But their work  was more closely aligned with the family album, documentary and performance, rather topographic.  (ibid, p.188).

Feminist discourse since the 1970s has rejected the monopoly of the male gaze and articulated the female point of view in relation to the landscape. Social and technological developments have also made serious photographic excursions into the landscape considerably more accessible (Wells, 2011, p.189). A number of female photographers have, in one form or another, engaged with feminist politics in relation to the landscape and the concept of nature, as well as the male gaze.

For interesting feminist and other modern approaches  see:

  • Helen Sear’s series Grounded (2000), in which she digitally combines photographs of skies with images of animal hides photographed at a museum.
  • Jo Spence subverts classical depictions of nude female figures within idealised settings.
  • Elina Brotherus
  • Karen Knorr
  • Susan Trangmar
  • Sian Bonnell
  • Barbara Kruger
  • Joan Fontcuberta Bodyscapes (2005) employ three-dimensional imaging software used for military  applications to render landscape images of close-up photographs of his own body.

 

Gilpin’s Theory of the Picturesque

Gilpin’s Essay on Prints (1768) defined picturesque as “a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture” (p. xii).  Gilpin began to expound his “principles of picturesque beauty”, based largely on his knowledge of landscape painting. During the late 1760s and 1770s Gilpin travelled extensively in the summer holidays and applied these principles to the landscapes he saw, committing his thoughts and spontaneous sketches to notebooks. William Gilpin’s work was a direct challenge to the ideology of the well established Grand Tour, showing how an exploration of rural Britain could compete with classically oriented tours of the Continent. The irregular, anti-classical, ruins became sought after sights.

Gilpin’s views were articulated particularly in his guide to Observations on the River Wye 1770:

“We travel for various purposes – to explore the culture of soils, to view the curiosities of art, to survey the beauties of nature, and to learn the manners of men, their different politics, and modes of life. The following little work proposes a new object of pursuit; that of examining the face of the country by the rules of picturesque beauty; opening the sources of those pleasures which are derived from the comparison.”introduction (Gilpin, [1782] 2005, p.17)

While Gilpin allowed that nature was good at producing textures and colours, it was rarely capable of creating the perfect composition. Some extra help from the artist, perhaps in the form of a carefully placed tree, was usually required.

‘Nature is always great in design; but unequal in composition…Nature gives us the material of landscape: woods, rivers, trees, lakes, ground, and mountains; but leaves us to work them up into pictures, as our fancy leads…I am so attached to my picturesque rules, that if nature gets it wrong, I cannot help putting her right…the picture is not so much the ultimate end, as it is the medium, through which the ravishing scenes of nature are excited in the imagination.’

Gilpin’s work on watercolour technique emphasised both texture and composition were important in a “correctly picturesque” scene:

  • The texture should be “rough”, “intricate”, “varied”, or “broken”, without obvious straight lines.
  • The composition should work as a unified whole, incorporating several elements: a dark “foreground” with a “front screen” or “side screens”, a brighter middle “distance”, and at least one further, less distinctly depicted, “distance”.
  • A ruined abbey or castle would add “consequence”.
  • A low viewpoint, which tended to emphasise the “sublime”, was always preferable to a prospect from on high.

In contrast to other contemporary travel writers, such as Thomas Pennant, Gilpin included little history, and few facts or anecdotes. He described ways that the scenes could be improved upon, according to his vision of picturesque beauty. He directed readers to the specific spots he believed would yield the most picturesque vantage point of a given location.

Although he came in for criticism and satire eg in Jane Austen, Gilpin’s views were very influential in painting and related media, and particularly  garden design, encouraging landscape architects to introduce more organic shapes to views and structures such as follies and grottos. Others, most notably Richard Payne Knight, Uvedale Price (1794  An Essay on the Picturesque as Compared with the Sublime and Beautiful) and Thomas Johnes, developed Gilpin’s ideas into more comprehensive theories of the picturesque and apply these more generally to landscape design and architecture.

Improved road communications and travel restrictions on continental Europe saw an explosion of British domestic tourism in the 1780s and 1790s. Many of these picturesque tourists were intent on sketching, or at least discussing what they saw in terms of landscape painting. Some sketched freehand the scenes Gilpin described, and others employed the camera lucida – the precursor to the compact camera – as an aid to responding visually to Gilpin’s picturesque descriptions.  Gilpin’s works were the ideal companions for this new generation of travellers; they were written specifically for that market and never intended as comprehensive travel guides.

Gilpin asked: “shall we suppose it a greater pleasure to the sportsman to pursue a trivial animal, than it is to the man of taste to pursue the beauties of nature?”. The little brown ‘viewpoints’ icons on Ordnance Survey maps are a legacy of Gilpin.

Industrial and post-industrial landscapes

Some activist photographers have been mainly concerned with industrial and post-industrial landscapes. Here big industry becomes the ‘new sublime’ to be feared and confronted in the hope of change and avoiding disaster.

Other photographers have avoided any overt messages, rather asking questions to which the viewer may have different answers. These take a gentler, more ‘picturesque’ approach.

Post-industrial spaces have also inspired a new kind of tourism: urban exploration of derelict factories and warehouses, abandoned hospitals and asylums, any kind of space that is shut up, difficult to get to (eg below ground) or in any other way off-limits or hazardous. “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photographs.”

There are dedicated websites and chatrooms, such as

A film discussing urban exploration: https://vimeo.com/26200018

This has been echoed by increasing interest in ‘dark tourism’

Urbex

Landscape as a Call to Action

Photography, and the manipulation of photographs, is often used to highlight and raise political questions. Landscape photography in particular is often used in environmental activism – images of environmental degradation, urban squalor. In NGO advertising (eg GreenPeace) photographs are often manipulated to juxtapose elements that are then countered by a caption.

  • Peter Kennard produces explicit political photomontage in the dadaist tradition linked to political campaigning organisations – for example his ‘Hay Wain with Cruise Missiles’ (1980)
  • Edward Burtynsky produces large-format photographs of industrial landscapes altered by industry – an ‘industrial sublime’ creating tension between awe-inspiring beauty and the compromised environments he depicts.
  • Mitch Epstein also uses large format, but less ‘beautiful’ images that do not aim to convey a specific message, and are more documentary in juxtaposing complex narratives.
  • Dana Lixenberg in works like the Last Days of Shishmaref uses landscape and portrait photography alongside working with environmentalists and local activists to produce powerful participatory social documentary.
  • Ikka Halso uses digital montage, including 3D, to build dystopian landscapes that raise questions about the ways in which human beings are attempting to control nature.

Exercise 3.4: A persuasive image