6: Review and Transitions

This review revisits the questions I had about landscape and landscape photography at the beginning of this course (See front page).

How do I  feel about and relate to my environment?

  • how does photographic practice increase my awareness of the world around me?
  • how do or should I react to the technological changes that are taking place in the ways people are affecting the environment?
  • what is ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’? why?

Photography, and also art and illustration, have become part of my way of seeing the world and exploring different meanings and responses to the world around me. Developing my skills and exploring different approaches in photographing journeys greatly increases my ability to record and remember what I see of countries I visit for my work, as an archive then to work with later either as photographs or as art (See Assignment 4 ‘A New Safari’ and Assignment 5 Perspectives on Kyrgyzstan). The Transitions project also made me look much in a much more focused way at my local environment to observe human interactions with the environment, what traces left behind can indicate about what actually happened – and sometimes the ‘beauty’ of human objects like plastic beer can carriers and ‘wild things’ left behind (See Assignment 6: BENCH).

My feelings about landscape itself remain conflicted (see ‘A Subjective Voice’). I still need quiet places for reflection and enjoy conventional ‘stunning beauty’ of sunsets, reflections on water and plays of light. I think maybe human beings still need to think there is some untamed ‘wilderness’ – even if it is quite tame and I don’t want to feel scared of strangers I meet in isolated places much less marauding lions and elephants in Africa at night. But I have become interested in, rather than just avoiding, the traces of human impact and activity, and ways in which people can enjoy and shape natural environments without destroying them.

Why photography? what do I want to say?

  • Do I want to portray beauty (form, colour, light, wind and being alive)? sublime (the awe of it all, darkness and light?)? in everything (including things destroying the planet?)?
  • Do I want to show human interaction with the environment and social documentary/activism?
  • Does photographing the world teach me something new through making me slow down and slice up then reconstruct?

The course helped me to clarify and extend what I am trying to do with landscape photography, and photography in general. I have been particularly interested in the work of Fay Godwin, the New Topographics, Justyn Partyka as well as course author Jesse Alexander (though not everything that interested me is on his website eg work on the sublime) as well as photographers I had studied in courses on documentary. I am also interested in the work on light in monochrome by Japanese photographers like Hiroshi Sugimoto.

My photography now integrates landscape and documentary – whereas before in my work I had tended to separate the two – scenery on journeys and documentary when I arrive – I now look  much more closely at natural landscapes to identify and appreciate how people have shaped and interacted with it.

What is the best way to visually communicate my perceptions and feelings?

  • through my professional work on development in Africa, Asia and Latin America
  • my art practice and interest in post-modern/multicultural approaches to illustration and digital processes.
  • how do I communicate emotions, feelings and messages in a 2D frame?

I have learned more about the possibilities and limitations of digital processing in Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik FX to make use of images shot in less than perfect conditions – what details need to be recorded in pixels when I take them, and what can be adjusted later in software.

At the same time I need to continue to work on my technical skills, and experiment with different cameras to produce more unusual images of light on the landscape. I also need more practice to capture the often fleeting and intriguing images flying past me on journeys. There is also a lot more I could do with sights from the air – interpreting the meaning of different field patterns and marks on the landscape.

What are the best ways of showing my work (when it is good enough) to change what I want to change? 

  • photographs in an exhibition?
  • photobooks?
  • web galleries?
  • other?

I started to develop my skills in:

  • designing photobooks (Assignments 5 Perspectives on Kyrgyzstan and Assignment 6 Transitions) and have self-published drafts of a number of books on Blurb to look at formats, layout and paper types. This has been in parallel to my OCA degree course on Book Design. But I need to go much deeper into Photobook design using InDesign and other specialist and commercial publishers to get the best from my images.
  • on-line web galleries (http://www.zemniimages.com) through SmugMug. The galleries on this site still need a lot of work – separating best portfolio images from archives. Although there is potentially more of a market for some some of my more obscure albeit less technically proficient archive images from work because of their rarity, than most of my best portfolio images that are in competition with professional photographers. Ideally obviously I would combine the two.

Further ideas for medium term development

I see two main directions I can now focus on (in addition to continuing to use images as the basis for art and illustration):

  • photobooks
  • website for download of individual images and showcase selected images as tasters for the photobooks. Here I have to decide whether and how to combine any professional photography with work photography for clients and/or my art/design/illustration work.

Landscape documentary photobooks ideas

I intend to revise the current photobooks I have drafted on Kyrgyzstan, Cote d’Ivoire and also look at some of my other travel collections as photobooks. I have images from Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Indonesia with work in Philippines in the autumn. Looking much more at different approaches for different readership (NGO, tourist etc) in terms of layout, use of text etc.

I also have material that will be further developed from my Transitions work – specifically a series on two bridges: The Railway Bridge as the area is developed with a new station and cycle path across the current bridge. And the A14 Road Bridge with echoes of Donovan Wylie’s Northern Ireland work.

Some images for Bridge 2: one direction for future development – probably in Black and White. I have hundreds more that I need to work through when time and RSI permit through. I experimented a lot with light and possible monochrome interpretations but have not yet uploaded for viewing.