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Thread: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

  1. #51

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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Graham View Post
    For some ideas you could check out the Petrochemical America project by Richard Misrach and Kate Orff-

    https://aperture.org/blog/richard-mi...-conversation/
    Nice lead. Thanks Colin. I was not aware of this one.

  2. #52

    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    Quote Originally Posted by bthphoto View Post
    Thanks. I wasn't familiar with Robert Adams. I will spend some time studying his work.
    Hi,

    people often mention a certain "view" or a "perspective" from a certain "point of view" - it is obvious that you have different points of views, as a photographer and an ecologist, perhaps with parentship, pecuniary interest, etc pp.

    The word "persepctive" shouldn't be monopolized by geometry, neither by Mr. Filippo Brunelleschi, nor by Nikolaus Karpf, this is what I say as an art historian. "Space" in a phenomenological sense is the impression of a (non-)disposable distance resulting from the fact that there is something in opposition to us. And a "perspective" is the entireness of the principles how something is organized while standing in opposition to a viewer. In phenomenology you have perspectives onto feelings, actions and assumptions (Husserl, Heidegger, Ströker). Central perspective, the euclidian space is a subset of being the origin and a part of assumptions.

    There are literary perspectives, too. They also implicate "origines" (lat.), "personal point of views", opinions, that organize what a figure sees and how he sees it. This figure can be in the landscape or in front of the landscape, as the spectator or the photographer. This figure can be an animal, a plant, a human being, this figure can be explicitly present - perceptable - or implicitly present - like the figure in front of the landscape.

    When viewing at a landscape (and photographing it) you will be a narrator. You narrate a story.

    If you take a picture with a 90mm wideangle and if you incorporate some foreground you constitute an implicitly present point of view of a figure (photographer or spectator, narrator or animal, a plant perhaps) from which the picture space, the scene, the stage is accessible. From this point of view the objects, circumstances and facts of this scenery are organized, always according to certain laws.

    BTW. the centralized perspective of Brunelleschi is a proper subset of this concept of "perspective", defined by the geometrical order and the shape of things in a centralized view (a "prince's eye", "oeillade", as the french say). The implicit author of his Baptisterium scetches narrates the story of taking complete possession of the visible world, that is now organized by the spectators laws.

    The large format camera is a vehicle to take possession of the visual world, corresponding predefined laws that are disposable in camera movements.

    Another perspective - Robert Adams - would emphasize the structures of polluted, wasted, exhausted or abandoned environment, constituing an order of deficit as a (street) ballad about how the unsolicitous man negates and abandons everything that should be worthful.

    There are many perspectives, views - we can position ourselves as well as our fictive protagonists in our sceneries, constituing many differnet landscapes, topographies, ecologies.

  3. #53
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    bth - I don't think you've done your homework. The West Coast school was intensely involved in the ecological aspect. Eliot Porter, though first recognized by Stieglitz for black and white pictures things like bird's nests, then went ahead to represent nature in color in a HOLISTIC CONTEXT like nobody previously. Who else would have dared print expensive books containing pictures of ouzel droppings prominent at the streamside? It was groundbreaking, particularly the images presented in "In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World", and "The Place No One Knew". And if that tango with Thoreau wasn't ecological in essence, what is? Yes, perhaps it is best to aspire to something more illusive, that can ONLY be expressed photographically. But that rapidly risks becoming pretentious, not necessarily by capitulating to some commercial postcard mentality (which is the case 90% of the time), but often by pandering to critical stereotypes for sake of obtaining an art reputation. Robert Glenn Ketchum mimics Porter but leaves a bright soda can, chewing gum wrapper, or outhouse in the scene to make it "relevant" as "environmental photography"; a politically-correct gimmick if ever there was one. Misrach had it printed all mushy bland with plenty of human imprint - sometimes quite interestingly, but still in a manner which makes his baiting of museum pontification unquestionable - a local art career type. Same could be said for Burtynsky - he has a very interesting mode of visualization, but it's all conspicuously marketed around contemporary human mauling of the environment themes. Robert Adams is more nuanced, but not necessarily ecological in any particular sense. Maybe this term "ecology" itself becomes a trap. What are you after? I've got a degree in field biology, even more education in geology, and a lifetime of outdoor large format photography. And frankly, I don't give a damn what it's called. It's just it. I'm not trying to copy anyone, and I hate labels. Leave taxonomy to those who collect dead insects on pins, or stuff snarling big kittie-cat skins for Smithsonian dioramas, and for rote ideas critics put into photographer's heads without really understanding us in the first place. Pigeonholes = pigeon poop, at least if there's anything really worth looking at. I remember picking up a brand new book about Carleton Watkins just to find out the critic who wrote it didn't actually see a damn thing; he was just pontificating and spinning off a bunch of historical stereotypes. Fine. It's how they pay their bills, I guess. Nowadays everybody seems to need some gimmick to get noticed. I'm sick of it.

  4. #54

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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    Eliot Porter trained as a medical doctor rather than as an ecologist. He made pictures of things in nature he found beautiful, and he liked the details rather than the grand vistas. His pictures were used to promote conservation agendas, but he says that’s not why he made them. In his own words from Intimate Landscapes, “I do not photograph for ulterior purposes. I photograph for the thing itself – for the photograph – without consideration of how it may be used. Some critics suggest that I make photographs primarily to promote conservation, but this allegation is far from the truth. Although my photographs may be used in this way, it is incidental to my original motive for making them, which is first of all for personal aesthetic satisfaction.”

    Porter wanted people to think about nature and the environment by showing them beauty, so he took pictures of things he loved. I think this is a good strategy. A lot of “environmental” photography tries to trigger a fear/disgust reaction in people, and that’s not a viable strategy for promoting long-term changes in thinking or behaviour. Martha A. Sandweiss, who wrote the foreword for the 1987 retrospective of his work, called it well: “He does not make pictures of despoiled landscapes littered with beer cans or criss-crossed by utility wires in order to suggest that man should leave nature alone. Rather, he continues to focus on the wild, unspoiled landscape, hoping to suggest the merits of conservation through a positive, persuasive illustration of nature’s inherent beauties.”

    It sounds to me like the OP also wants to get people to think about nature and the environment, but through pictures that are grounded in, and reflect, an understanding of ecological systems. I’m not seeing a problem here. I like the OP’s approach and am curious to see where it goes. I also love Eliot Porter’s work and take huge inspiration from it.

  5. #55
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    The conservation aspect caused a lot of friction with AA, perhaps jealousy, as Porter's beautiful folio books gained traction as conservation fodder, overtaking Adam's work. Ironically, Porter's own brother was the chief engineer of the Glen Canyon dam project which he so bitterly fought. The late David Brower basically seceded from the Sierra Club over the book controversy. We didn't have money to waste, but my older brother idolized Porter's work and my parents scraped together enough money to buy him an original of the Glen Canyon book, with the beautifully varnished pages (a varnish which eventually yellows). But even that young, I habitually held a white card in my hand and kept re-cropping into Porter's images, which kinda shows how different my own vision was to become, even though appreciating what Porter did as is. Now many years later, I look at some of those very pictures and note how so much that made them work was in a specific knack for subtle details which the myriads of mere copycats of his work have no sense of. They just want some slot canyon splash, or a tangle of weeds to mimic a painterly abstraction. It takes more than that. That fine holistic sense was really rooted into his vision. He wasn't just illustrating Thoreau. He was independently wealthy, so didn't have to pander. Many of the shots he took in Maine, which did contain a lot of manmade objects, were adjacent to pricey family property. He acquired machinist training during the war, and utilized it when he undertook dye transfer printing in an attempt to faithfully reproduce bird coloration. His main assistant when he was in New Mexico was Jim Bones, who recently posted a dye transfer video primer within that old facility, but in recent years has been involved in his own version of environmental activism, but was incensed when Kodak broke their word and prematurely discontinued dye transfer supplies, and for awhile simply refused to photograph, seemingly in protest, while others simply moved on to Cibachrome. I guess it takes hard heads to make stubbornly stunning prints. Eliot Porter himself unquestionably fell into that category. Many people today have forgotten the original impact of his work amidst the millions of easy-come/easy-go pictures of "raw nature" - a myth in itself. Most of the planet was altered by man long ago, even Walden's Pond.

  6. #56

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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    The conservation aspect caused a lot of friction with AA, perhaps jealousy, as Porter's beautiful folio books gained traction as conservation fodder, overtaking Adam's work. Ironically, Porter's own brother was the chief engineer of the Glen Canyon dam project which he so bitterly fought. The late Eliot Brower basically seceded from the Sierra Club over the book controversy. We didn't have money to waste, but my older brother idolized Porter's work and my parents scraped together enough money to buy him an original of the Glen Canyon book, with the beautifully varnished pages (a varnish which eventually yellows). But even that young, I habitually held a white card in my hand and kept re-cropping into Porter's images, which kinda shows how different my own vision was to become, even though appreciating what Porter did as is. Now many years later, I look at some of those very pictures and note how so much that made them work was in a specific knack for subtle details which the myriads of mere copycats of his work have no sense of. They just want some slot canyon splash, or a tangle of weeds to mimic a painterly abstraction. It takes more than that. That fine holistic sense was really rooted into his vision. He wasn't just illustrating Thoreau. He was independently wealthy, so didn't have to pander. Many of the shots he took in Maine, which did contain a lot of manmade objects, were adjacent to pricey family property. He acquired machinist training during the war, and utilized it when he undertook dye transfer printing in an attempt to faithfully reproduce bird coloration. His main assistant when he was in New Mexico was Jim Bones, who recently posted a dye transfer video primer within that old facility, but in recent years has been involved in his own version of environmental activism, but was incensed when Kodak broke their word and prematurely discontinued dye transfer supplies, and for awhile simply refused to photograph, seemingly in protest, while others simply moved on to Cibachrome. I guess it takes hard head to make stubbornly stunning photographs. Eliot Porter himself unquestionably fell into that category. Many people today have forgotten the original impact of his work amidst the millions of easy-come/easy go pictures of "raw nature" - a myth in itself. Most of the planet was altered by man long ago, even Walden's Pond.
    Thanks for this post Drew. So much of our history exists only in the memories of people with this kind of personal knowledge.

  7. #57

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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    Thank you very much for these last few posts. They're packed with food for thought and I've just printed them to study a bit, as I tend to think better with a highlighter than a mouse pointer.

    One thought that has occurred to me, as it came up at work today, is that many people define ecology differently, and that may fragment the discussion. Some equate it with anything in nature. Some equate it with conservation. Some equate it with environmental activism. Some equate it with the ugliness of humanity's imprint on nature. While I appreciate the beauty of nature, and I'm certainly in favor of raising peoples' awareness about the impacts of how carelessly we live on this planet, those aren't the inspiration for the project I've got in mind. What I'm interested in is producing imagery that helps people notice and think about flows of matter, cycles of energy, disturbance, succession, patterns, corridors, and fragmentation at scales that affect communities and ecosystems rather than individual organisms or populations, not in the form of diagrams in a text book, but in the form of art works that connect at an emotive junction rather than an academic one. Hopefully that helps clarify what I'm aiming for a bit. Regardless, I'm grateful for all the discussion, feedback, and points of view here. This has been extremely helpful.

  8. #58

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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    Quote Originally Posted by bthphoto View Post
    . . . many people define ecology differently, and that may fragment the discussion. . . . . .What I'm interested in is producing imagery that helps people notice and think about flows of matter, cycles of energy, disturbance, succession, patterns, corridors, and fragmentation at scales that affect communities and ecosystems rather than individual organisms or populations, not in the form of diagrams in a text book, but in the form of art works that connect at an emotive junction rather than an academic one. Hopefully that helps clarify what I'm aiming for a bit.
    How people define ecology is one thing, but people tend to see what they are already aware of, guided by their own biases. Just the other day, a forester viewing an historic image, (taken by Owen Wister, long before local Euro-American settlement), assumed that "the rancher that lived near there cut all those trees", without a stump, ranch, or cow in sight. He was not dumb, and had 40+ years of experience, but was just casually looking at it.

    Even in the field it could work that way. I remember being out with J. David Love (geologist in Wyoming, see John McPhee's "Rising from the Plains"), and seeing a scarp in glacial outwash, he interpreted it as a fault scarp. A few years later, while I was out with Luna Leopold, (fluvial geomorphologist), he interpreted the same feature as an alluvial terrace scarp. Both interpretations were plausible, but without more context and deductive reasoning, it was easy to see how there were two different answers from notable experts.

    Without a narrative context, a single image could be like a Rorschach ink-blot test to naive viewers. A series of them, as you suggested earlier, should work better, but it will be generally challenging to convey what you know to viewers, or what you would like them to know. That is what makes your project so interesting.

  9. #59

    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    Quote Originally Posted by bthphoto View Post
    Thank you very much for these last few posts. They're packed with food for thought and I've just printed them to study a bit, as I tend to think better with a highlighter than a mouse pointer.

    One thought that has occurred to me, as it came up at work today, is that many people define ecology differently, and that may fragment the discussion. Some equate it with anything in nature. Some equate it with conservation. Some equate it with environmental activism. Some equate it with the ugliness of humanity's imprint on nature. While I appreciate the beauty of nature, and I'm certainly in favor of raising peoples' awareness about the impacts of how carelessly we live on this planet, those aren't the inspiration for the project I've got in mind. What I'm interested in is producing imagery that helps people notice and think about flows of matter, cycles of energy, disturbance, succession, patterns, corridors, and fragmentation at scales that affect communities and ecosystems rather than individual organisms or populations, not in the form of diagrams in a text book, but in the form of art works that connect at an emotive junction rather than an academic one. Hopefully that helps clarify what I'm aiming for a bit. Regardless, I'm grateful for all the discussion, feedback, and points of view here. This has been extremely helpful.
    Hullo,

    let's have a look at this: http://artistsinlabs.ch/en/

    Perhaps the Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS) of the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK) could be your friend ... They offer long-term residencies for artists in scientific laboratories and research institutes (usually 6 months).

    Are you interested? It would be some kind of a role changing: being as a photographer at an institution you normally know as scientist.

    EG. Claudia Tolusso was a guest in 2009 at the "Eidgenössische Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft (WSL), Birmensdorf ZH" (forest, snow, landscape), scientific discipline: ecology and environment. Her residence was in Bellinzona, Tessin / Switzerland.

    Sylvia Hostettler was in 2008 at the Centre for Integrative Genomics (CIG), at the Université de Lausanne, scientific discipline: molecular biology. She traveled with her collegues to various glaciers in the alps, collecting genetic materials, then she passed a few weeks in Iceland ...

    The director is a native English speaker Everybody in Zürich talks English. https://www.facebook.com/artistsinlabs/?_fb_noscript=1

    Regards
    Last edited by Daniel Casper Lohenstein; 3-Apr-2019 at 08:01.

  10. #60
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Musings on landscape photography from a landscape ecologist's point of view

    bth - Just follow your heart and don't overthink it. It can take awhile to efficiently integrate your personal instinct with both efficient technique and a corresponding visual eloquence others can identify within your images. The train needs a steady pull to achieve due momentum. Don't let this fact discourage you. People who reach for some visual or philosophical gimmick to overtly speed up the process tend to spoil it. Overheating things in a microwave is one thing, patiently allowing things to simmer to flavor is another. In other words, don't be in a hurry to define your niche. Take time to deeply look at things, then try to patiently reproduce that same sense in your prints or whatever visual mode of expression best suits you. I've always thought that traditional Australian aborigines would make great photographers because they spend so much time just observing the details of nature around them. Or like Ed Abbey wrote, if you want to understand the desert, don't drive past it, but get out and slowly crawl on it. You'll get there.

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