Sunday, December 12, 2010

Daily Practice 346/365

Title: "The meaning of solitude"
(click on image to view larger)
I'm sure that I'm drawn to photograph the landscape because it demands quiet contemplation, something that I revel in. Although I am generally alone when I'm out photographing, I'm not lonely; I seek the healing solitude of the landscape. It is no accident that people, or even evidence of people, are absent from my photographs. I go out into the landscape to balance the time I have to spend with people. I'm not talking about loved ones, or close friends, but the people that daily life and work constantly bring me into contact with. I most likely am particularly attracted to photographing seascapes, because they seem even more desolate and untouched by humans than even the surrounding landscape is here.
Another problem with including people in landscape photographs is the way people in a photograph, regardless of scale, draw the viewer's attention. I personally feel that all landscape photographs offer narratives to the viewer, the best doing so in an indirect, and undirected way. When people are included in the frame, the narrative becomes very narrowly focused, the viewer either deciding exactly what the humans are doing or speculating as to their purpose in the image. When Emily Carr, the grand doyen of Canadian west coast landscape painting first came back from Europe and started painting the local landscape, and defunct west coast native villages, she was advised to include figures in her paintings. She did this for awhile, but soon came to the conclusion that they detracted from what she was attempting to portray with her uniquely impressionistic paintings of rain forests and totems. Her later paintings of only the landscape are definitely more mysterious and powerful.
One thing that is certain is that viewers will definitely stop and look at a landscape photograph that includes figures (such is the strong draw on our psyche). Whereas the straight landscape image may be glanced at in passing, the way most people simply move through the landscape day by day. So the challenge for the landscape photographer is to create images that are so compelling, they are impossible to walk by.

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