I have long been a fan of landscape photography, Charlie Waite’s work being what I admired most for many years. In recent times though, everybody seems to have jumped on the ‘Big Picture’ bandwagon, to the point that it becomes difficult to distinguish the work of one photographer from another. Added to that much of work in this genre seems, in my opinion, to be over processed in Photoshop or the like so that I keep asking myself if this really is what the scene looked like.
More recently many landscape photographers seem to be trying to break away from the big dramatic over saturated images in favour of more subtle, atmospheric pictures. David Noton for example, http://davidnoton.com whose Chasing the Light roadshow I had the pleasure of attending back in the autumn, produces pictures dependent on fantastic light which have far more depth and atmosphere than many of his contemporaries. Even so, many of those images are out of the reach of people like me who for whatever reason cant trek up a mountain in the early hours of the morning with only a head torch for company, or worse still camp at the top overnight in atrocious weather.
I was interested therefore in an article in the March 13 issue of Outdoor Photography magazine called ‘Photography without spectacle’ in which David Ward, http://www.into-the-light.com/ discusses why, in his view, photographers should move away from what he calls IWI (images with impact), to pursue their creative vision. Ward puts the trend for these ‘big picture’ images down to the editorial environment where some poor picture editor has to trawl thought 75,000 images in order to choose the ones he or she will use. In this situation, pictures have to have impact to be noticed. David Ward goes on to say that these images will not endure the test of time because a) we will soon lose interest in a landscape unless we have an emotional attachment to and b) after a while they all become a bit samey and merge into each other and that the trick to being noticed is to do something different. Ward’s view is that we need to do more than simply illustrate the landscape but rather that we need to be using the landscape to ‘truly see and to reveal things to the viewer’. He compares this to how artists aspires to use their medium and suggests that in doing so we might find something ‘unique and beautiful beyond the obvious spectacle’. Ward quotes American photographer Guy Tal’s description of the difference between the two approaches from a recent article:
‘The purpose of illustration is to say: ‘Here’s what you would have seen had you been there’
The purpose of art is to say: ‘Here’s what you would not have seen had I not shown it to you, even if you were standing next to me’
‘In the former, the photographer is a passive bystander, a mere operator of machinery; in the latter. the photographer is an integral part of an image and its reason for being’ http://guytal.com/gtp/index.jsp
Ward finishes by saying that anybody, with a little effort, can record the big picture, or IWI but no matter how good they are, they will not last, nor will they say much about the photographer. On the other hand if we use our individual artistic vision we mare more likely to come up with something unique and that ‘ultimately, it is better to be noticed for the way we see rather than what we see’ Ward, D (2013) Photography without spectacle. Outdoor Photography issue 163 pp.77.
David Ward’s own gallery contains its fair share of ‘big picture’ images though most are creative and artistic shots showing, as Guy Tal puts it, something that you may well not have seen even if you had been there, such as this one entitled Lael Flower.
In terms of photography, I have tended to think of ‘artistic’ and ‘creative’ as over-processed in Photoshop and although there may be some of that, as a rule of thumb, this is clearly unjustified. David’s photographs are fresh and inspiring. He focuses close in on small parts of the scene, uses light, lines, angles and colour to find a form of landscape photography which is quite different from the IWI he talks about in his article, although without doubt, David’s images have impact. Thinking back, this is what Colin Prior meant on the workshop I attended in Assynt back in October when he talked about finding shots ‘within the landscape’ and is not this the very thing we learned in the Art of Photography? Sometimes you just need to see something from a different perspective for it to sink in.