3: Landscape as Political Text Documentary Inspiration Landscape Review

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