Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

March 26, 2008

Just Looking – for a great landscape photograph

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Doug Stockdale @ 2:05 am

Just Looking

I am continuing to muddle over the comments regarding Contemporary Landscape Photography and the idea of appearing neutral in the presentation of the visual facts. And perhaps what it means to be objective. Taking this from a different mental perspective may help me, that is, what is a Great Landscape Photograph? I think that the use of the work ‘Contemporary’ may be bringing too much mental/emotional baggage along with it.

At the end of the day, I think that the Great landscape photographs taken now will be at some point judged to be the great ‘Contemporary’ photographs of this period. Which is to say, can we really evaluate today what should be called a ‘Contemporary’ photograph? Don’t we need some time and space to make that evaluation? I am really not sure, as by no means am I  an expert on this.

Another way to talk about today’s Great Landscape Photography, is the landscape photography that appears differenttoday than most other landscape photography that is the ‘norm’ to now. In this case, I am using the word ‘different’ in what I hope is in a more positive way than my earlier sarcasm. Maybe a landscape photograph brings new ideas to the forefront, show you what you had not seen before, provides insights to cultural aspects that you were not aware of or help you better understand yourself?

Or as Mark Hobson states: I give the viewer room to move, both emotionally and intellectually.

Different may also be a landscape image is devoid of the Wow!factor to shock and awe you. To visualize this, think of most Hawaiian sunset photographs with the saturation really cranked up. The colors just about melt your monitor down. Or other landscape images that seem to get by on almost color along. Don’t get me wrong, that were periods when color was the subject, but that time has past, thus not within the current definitions of Great Landscape Photography.

Okay, I know that perhaps some of you disagree, because its the viewer who ultimately decides what is a great landscape photograph and the Hawaiian sunset photographs sell a ton and many folks love them to death. But would another beautiful sunset be considered today as a great landscape photograph? I don’t think that it would pass the test of time.

Which takes me to the question of who decides what makes a great landscape photograph? Not to belabor this point, but part is you, who took the photograph. Part are those who can put the landscape photograph in a greater context, be they critics, publishers or other writers. Part are those who are the audience, be they collectors or those who frequent galleries or just everyone who is not the photographer.

So what the heck does that mean for us? First, it means we need to be thinking about what it is we want to accomplish if we are indeed wanting to make great landscape photographs. To spend some time reviewing what has come before us. What worked and what did not work. Are there some unanswered questions? How can you answer these questions? And that what you do will probably look different, and many will not understand what it is you are trying to do, even if you tell them. So you may get some connections with folks, you may not, and it can be difficult to forge ahead when it seems all you get is what the heck are you DOING?? That is awful (or worse!). And you may decide it end up being a failure anyhow. But hopefully, you learned something that may be the kernel of experience that can take you forward to new things.

Perhaps even great landscape photography!

Best regards, Doug

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