Compares two versions of the same image by Timothy O’Sullivan ‘Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake (Nevada)’
1868 photograph which later became a celebrated example of art photography for its abstract composition, and contrast between mistiness of the water and the detail of the foreground – ‘Twentieth century sensibility welcomes…as a model of the mysterious, silent beauty to which landscape photography had access during the early decades of the century’ ‘the mysterious beauty of the image is in this opulent flattening of its space’.
1875 lithograph published in King Survey Report as a geological study. This increased the detail and thereby removed the mystery.
She argues that different types of image are legitimate for different types of discourse. She examines the transition in painting, and a little later in photography, from early 18C landscape with feelings of depth that had been commissioned particularly to hang in houses of patrons, to flattened perspectives more suitable for displaying on larger exhibition gallery walls. ‘Transformation after 1860 into a flattened and compressed experience of space spreading laterally across the surface’. Voiding of perspective but with sharp value contrasts. Serial landscapes like Monet’s haystacks.
But is an issue if the effects and our appreciation of a work does not relate to the original intention of the artist? eg in the case of O’Sullivan if what we value today are effects caused by the limitations of the photographic process that O’Sullivan would have changed if he could.
Many 19C images were also intended to be viewed through stereoscopes. Shutting out surroundings to focus on the ‘view’ or sequence of ‘views’. Makers of stereo views often structured the image around a vertical marker in the fore-or middle-ground to center the space. Copyright was often with the companies, not with the photographer.
Atget – need to understand the number, sequencing and repetition in relation to the way they were used and cataloguing systems. He himself did not give an artistic evaluation. What does this imply for our evaluation of his photography as art?
When does a ‘view’ become a ‘landscape’?