Landscape: An Expanded Research

1st Update: 23.02.16
2nd Update: 29.02.16
3rd Update: 03.03.16

Modern landscape photography can be categorized into three general styles – Representational, impressionistic and Abstract.

Representational landscape photographs are straightforward, where much attention is paid to framing, lighting, and composition. They portray the most natural and realistic scenery without distorting reality with props or artificial components. Ansel Adams and Mark Gray are some of the notable photographers with this style.

The impressionistic landscape image carries a vague or elusive sense of reality through various photography techniques. The landscape seems more of an impression rather than its true representation. Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming are some photographers who practice the impressionistic style.

Abstract landscape photos use part of the scenery as graphic components and arranged for their compositional values. Natural elements may be rendered unrecognizable as design becomes more important than its realistic representation. Peter Stewart and Eric Dufour are some photographers who specialize in this area.

In recent years, a new form of landscape photography is slowly emerging. It is the result of people today becoming so de-sensitized to images of war conflicts and other issues of socioeconomic and geopolitical circumstances they see every day that it takes more stimulating images just to create an awareness.

It is the ‘Provocative’.

The dictionary defines ‘Provocative’ or ‘Provoke’ as to call forth certain emotions, inciting irritation or vexation, usually in a negative sentiment in another person. It may also mean to excite stimulate or arouse an interest. It is related to the Latin root meaning challenge, which adequately describe the general antagonistic effect desired by the use of the word.

‘Provocative’ in photography is usually associated with portraitures or people images. Subjects that raises certain issues or controversies often generate a lot of responses. Some advertising agencies implore such tactics to create an awareness in their campaigns.

What does ‘Provocative Landscape’ mean?

Does provocative scenery necessarily mean serene images? Does a documentary-style landscape photograph ‘provoke’ or ‘evoke’?

In relation to landscape photography, such images may address certain socioeconomic or geopolitical issues pertaining to the landscape environment. It may be in the form of metaphorical representation, or encompass an evocative element. It can be phantasmagoric and dreamy yet rooted in a cold reality check, a visually compelling and conceptually stimulating consideration of the photographic medium; thus blending the borders of fiction and reality together.

Why do I choose this approach?

When we look through landscape images, everyone has that same shot of soft sunlight at the golden hour, breaking through the evening clouds to highlight the rolling hills over the horizon or that sunrise or sunset with a blazing sky and a large open space at foreground. Or perhaps that “silky and milky” shot of the waterfall in a deep forest with plenty of autumn leaves. It seems like we are all following the same kind of ‘magic formula’ that has been prescribed by all the landscape photographers that have gone before us.

In an effort to stretch the limits of the landscape photography, I attempt to explore ways to break away from the norm. The objective is not to challenge what has been established in landscape photography, but to explore and expand its limits. I think ‘Provocative Landscape’ has the potential for further exploration.

Types of ‘Provocative’ approaches

Different forms of provocation inform a different outcome of imagery. Types of provocativeness include – Contextual Controversies, Provocative Connotations, and Thought-provoking photography.

Contextual Controversies are about raising challenges to certain issues, usually in negative sentiment. It could be of polemic or apologetic argumentation, and photography presents these issues to reflect these argumentative propositions. French photojournalist Luc Delahaye is one photographer who implores such photography.

Provocative Connotations are about adding subtle or graphic details, or human element into the imagery content which creates challenges to prove a point. It presents a dialectic discussion of the imagery. Conceptual photographer Benjamin Von Wong’s ‘Storm chasing’ series reflects this approach.

Thought-provoking imagery takes on a rhetoric approach in raising an issue, stimulating an interest and causing the audience to think of the things they have not thought of before. It sometimes blends reality with the surreal. The end goal is to persuade its audience, usually in a positive sentiment. Edward Burtynsky’s landscape series and Kelly Richardson’s ‘Orion Tide’ reflects this approach.

Going Forward

My ideal approach in exploring this genre is about creating thoughtful juxtapositions and positive insights, yet retain an indefinable, ineffable mystery. They should be visually arresting yet serve to concern and inform.

Moving forward, I should be seeking collaboration with Geography students from the University of East Anglia or professionals familiar with the topic.

 

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