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The Trouble With Landscape Photography...

The past few months have mostly involved preparing for lecturing in Japan this September. Every day at my desk planning a workshop and supporting lectures. Also trying to keep myself together with a raft of health issues. When we face such challenges to the extent that we're physically, emotionally and mentally drained it can feel like the easiest option is to chuck the towel in. Failure is not an option I have to remind myself. Having said all that, of course a large part of me is very excited to visit, what is for me, a dream destination. Additionally, pulling together all of the source material (my photographs), has been quite enlightening. It's been interesting to chart my own creative journey, aesthetic and ethos over the years.

In brief, I began by travelling the length and breadth of the UK chasing those stand alone landscape images. From Cornwall to the most Northerly point of the UK, Unst. I quickly developed an aesthetic which I referred to as the 'Visual Mantra'. Not quite minimal but a simplified, stripped back version of traditional landscape photography. I really enjoyed these travels and you can view many of those photographs in the Landscape Archive. But I always felt I had more to express about our connection with landscape, the natural world and further, more abstract ideas around the passing of time, suggesting a more metaphysical narrative.

The photographs in this blog are from my ongoing series 'North Sea'. These images are a quite a departure from the ‘prettier’ more traditional landscapes that I began my career with. But they are more ‘real’. We don’t always wake up to glorious light in pristine wilderness. I would even go so far as to say that traditional landscape photography can distance us from nature, rather than bring us closer. My reasons for this are that by portraying a perfect scene, this suggests that we have to travel somewhere special to experience nature. We are part of nature and we must realise this for the sake of our planet. Nature is present right here underneath our feet. I want to show how we can appreciate the natural world without having to travel to far off wilderness. These days I work on a project by project aesthetic. With the chosen medium dictating the 'style'. For 'North Sea', I'm using a very lovely medium format Bronica RF645 with Kodak Portra. Portra 160, 400 & 800 are very different indeed. I'm mostly preferring 800 for the fantastic grain and working in low light or overcast conditions. Being a high speed film has made it interesting and not an obvious choice for the icm (intentional camera movement) work above, but I've been thrilled with the results. The joy of any creative project is seeing how it unfolds over time and I may, or may not introduce some black + white into the series. I'm undecided if b+w will make the final cut but I like the examples below, shot with Kodak TriX400 on a little Nikon L35AF.

Of recent weeks I've watched with great sadness the vast areas of forest fires in the coldest part of Russia; whilst the southern region is suffering from severe flooding, villages literally underwater. Not something that the BBC would ever show us, I receive updates from the Siberian Times. What will future generations think of our total lack of action on climate change? We need a deeper respect for the natural world, somehow instilling it into our psyche. I'm digressing a little here but I needed to share my concerns!

I feel that the genius of Andrei Tarkovsky can put it more succinctly:

"Man has defended himself, always against other men, against Nature. He has constantly violated Nature. The result is a civilisation built on force, power, fear, dependence. All our "technical progress" has only provided us with comfort, a sort of standard. And instruments of violence to keep power. We are like savages! We use the microscope like a cudgel! No, that's wrong. Savages are more spiritual than us. As soon as we make a scientific breakthrough we put it to use in the service of evil. And as for the standard, some wise man once said that sin is that which is unnecessary. If that is so, then our entire civilisation is built on sin, from beginning to end. We have acquired a dreadful disharmony, an imbalance, if you will, between our material and our spiritual development. Our culture is defective. I mean, our civilisation.

Basically defective, my boy!"

If you made it this far, I thank you and hope that you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Go out and connect with nature!


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