What is a Landscape?

When I initially thought about my Final Major Project I didn’t really want to do landscapes. There are other talented people in the class that are doing landscapes and I didn’t want to compete. I wanted to find something a bit different and unique but this week it has got me thinking about what exactly a landscape photograph is.

The Oxford Dictionary describes ‘landscape‘ as;

‘All the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal.’

The Oxford Dictionary also says that the word derived from a 16th century dutch word; lantscap made up of lant meaning land and scap meaning ship. It was a general word meaning a picture of scenery.

These definitions are very broad and I wondered if there is anything more profound or academic about landscape photography so I checked out the Landscape Photographer of the Year website. I couldn’t find a definition for landscape photography but rules for entry included this statement;

“We are looking for an image that captures the beauty and variety of the UK landscape. An iconic view; a view along a cliff-side path or of a historic village; a view down a valley; an urban skyline or snow-capped peaks; maybe showing the drama of our seasons. Recognisable and memorable; a true classic.”  Classic View Definition

Another category, Urban Landscapes similarly describes cityscapes and country towns, accepting anything that is urban and of the outdoors. David Bate in his book ‘Photography’ suggests further ‘scapes’ including gardenscapes, suburbanscapes, ariel scapes, panoramascapes and even cupboardscapes describing them as different types of spaces. Also pointing out the many different uses of landscape photography from tourism, urban planning and military reconnaissance. He concludes that landscape is an historical term that encompasses human perceptions of idealised nature. (Bate, 2016)

From this I can conclude that I am taking traditional landscape photographs. Constable was famous for his iconic landscape paintings and in trying to reproduce them in photographic form I have ended up taking the very type of landscape photograph that I didn’t want to do!

However, on further reflection the subject may be traditional but the presentation and methods I am using to produce these landscapes is far from it. The most obvious thing is that I will am using multiple images, shot in digital raw format, that are being stitched together to form one detailed image.

I have actually really enjoyed getting out and around Flatford and looking at the landscape in a way that I haven’t before. Growing up near there I absorbed lots of information about the place but could never talk about Constable with any confidence but through this process I am much more knowledgeable.

I have lots of memories of the area (my brother as a baby crawling over the side of the boat my dad was rowing along the river, walking through fields of cows, feeding the ducks, eating ice-cream) and the scenes are homely and comfortable to me, they have connotations of a happy childhood but now I can also relate much better to Constable as I walk about.

I find time in the open spaces of the countryside and large open blue skies therapeutic and a great way to clear my head and order my thoughts.

Liz Wells quotes Constable as saying “By a close observation of nature [the artist] discovers qualities… which have never been portrayed before’ (p23). I certainly think that through this project I have had an opportunity to observe nature closely and in focussing on capturing the countryside in detail I hope I have been able to portray something new about it to viewers.

References:

  • Bate, D. (2016) Photography: The key concepts, Second edition. United Kingdom: Berg Publishers.
  • Wells, Liz. (2011) Land Matters, Landscape, Photography, Culture and Identity. London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd.

 

 

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