Nov 25

A hierarchy of Landscape Photography

A number of posts on Twitter this week have set me thinking. There are many ways in which we as landscape photographers may choose to describe our work.

We may seek to produce entirely representational ‘forensic records’ of a scene we witness. We might give the viewer an amended version that seeks to relate what we saw and  perhaps more importantly felt at that moment. We might create a piece of art by manipulating the forms that were present by combining multiple exposures or using Intentional Camera Movement. We may engage in entirely conceptual or abstract responses delivered via the medium of photography. If we pursue the clasifications we may eliminate or embrace the use of filters in camera, we may adopt or abhore the use of processing with software and we may chose to make our images digitally or with film. We may choose a high technology photography instrument or a pinhole camera or even no camera at all.

These and all manner of alternatives seem entirely laudable and in their own measure satisfying or mystifying. What is however abhorrent and the most fruitless waste of time and endeavour is when photographers or critcs seek to create a hierarchy out of the above and to arrange them into some nebulous set of stepping stones across which any aspirant photographer must pass and will inevitably be judged based on how many steps have been completed.

To suggest to any artist that the only way in which they can achive work of quality is by leaping from one of these stepping stones to the next is not only arrogant but a complete failure to understand the essential personal nature of any artistic process. Denigrating the work and efforts of others is a very poor alternative to gaining satisfaction from your own work.

Enjoy what you do, respond to rather than judge the work of others and encourage all to enjoy and achieve fulfillment from what they do. Of all these, simply showing kindness instead of point scoring is not a bad place to start.

Rant over….


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  1. Joan Thirlaway
    November 25, 2018

    I agree, I enjoy my photography.

    As a Landscape photographer I’m very unimaginative relying on light to make my shot different to those whose tripod holes I utilise.

    I love the uncertainty of ICM and find it tremendous fun, if people don’t like it then that’s their choice.

    I’m too old to be worried by negativity and for some to be critical of work others produce shows a lack in the critic, not the photographer.

    There is no correct way – if what you produce gives you happiness then it’s a priceless gift.

  2. admin
    November 25, 2018

    It is indeed a priceless gift Joan. For some photographers, their need to achieve drives them to denigrate the work of others in order to make what they do seem better. A great shame and an ultimately divisie and wasteful process.

  3. Jeff Ashton
    November 25, 2018

    You articulated exactly what my addled brain was trying to formulate. The only thing I would add is… Social Media is not real life….

  4. admin
    November 25, 2018

    That’ll come as a bit of a shock to some folk……

  5. Warren Fyffe
    November 25, 2018

    Couldn’t agree more….

  6. Huw Alban
    November 25, 2018

    There is a French photographer Jean-Loupe Sieffe I think who was quoted as saying something like “I take pictures for me. If other people like them then that is just too bad”. An amusing quote but one that floats around my head when I’m out in the landscape. It is my experiences that I’m trying to distill into a photograph and my method of doing it is entirely up to me. As long as I am happy with the end result – as long as the image clearly reminds me of that moment – then I’ve succeeded. If other people react with the image too, then great. If they don’t, then they don’t.

  7. I always look back to a time in the early days of ‘Flickr’ when a number of ‘respected’ photographers were decrying some of the more common styles of coastal photography, that were then, and still are, so abundant. They offered their condescension from atop lofty self erected perches, pouring scorn on fledgling photographers, who dared to trace the very steps they too had trod on their journeys. Cries of plagiarism, of a lack of imagination etc. The gobsmacking irony was that the protagonists, perhaps half a dozen of them, almost to a man, were indeed pushing boundaries but were all pushing what appeared to be almost identical boundaries. I’ve winced regularly when ‘debates’ occur among photographers on social media because usually they make my skin crawl. More often than not they are just self defined ‘elite’ trying to differentiate themselves, to elevate their work, to magnify their own self importance, to air their petty jealousies and to demonstrate they have failed to grasp the concept of ‘social’ media. Arguments about style, moans about competitions, the embarrassing public quarrels between tour operators and those that can’t market themselves, baring their teeth at those that can. The camera is a device with which to capture light, how we choose to capture and present that light has never been more flexible and more expansive. I digress…

  8. Carmen
    November 25, 2018

    Good rant! Reflects my thoughts exactly

  9. damienlovegrove
    November 25, 2018

    Great piece, well written and absolutely spot on.

  10. Jon Sparks
    November 26, 2018

    Good point well (and concisely) made.
    I like some things and I don’t like others. I don’t attack people’s work just because I don’t like it. The one thing I do get cross about is when someone takes one approach and pretends it’s something else – e.g using double exposure or merging elements from different scenes and then trying to pass it off as a straight photograph.

  11. bonnieskye16
    November 26, 2018

    Hiya Mike. I like to try old and new methods of photography and encourage friends to enjoy their photography regardless of whatever they use or like to do. No one should stand on high ground laying down commands about what we should be doing to gain their consent.
    For me photography is about enjoying what I do and pleases me and not a way of massaging the ego’s of others who regard themselves as being better than others.

  12. Bill Allsopp Photography
    November 28, 2018

    Well said!

  13. admin
    December 01, 2018

    Cheers Bill, much appreciated.

  14. admin
    December 01, 2018

    Very much agree. It can be about enjoyment and self expression. I’m not sure rules and competitiveness add anything.

  15. admin
    December 01, 2018

    If you start with honesty and then add a touch of kindness, you dont go far wrong.

  16. admin
    December 01, 2018

    Thank you very much Damian, greatly appreciated.

  17. admin
    December 01, 2018

    Thank you Carmen 🙂

  18. admin
    December 01, 2018

    Agree entirely. We can always discuss styles and techniques but it is pointless to try and claim one is right or better.

  19. admin
    December 01, 2018

    I love that saying, it is my life mantra pretty much.

  20. admin
    December 01, 2018

    Cheers Warren, very much appreciated.

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