Photography project 3 exercise 3

Observing images taken from different points of view , I looked at landscapes taken from ground level as well as those in the OCA material. The aerial views offer a sense of scale, a panorama of the wider landscape and the patterns made by rows of trees , the changing colours of fields and patches of urban development..

When viewing from this angle it feels less connected and more abstract. This is possibly because these are not familiar views unless you are regularly flying in planes or helicopters etc , and yet the patterns seen hold their own familiarity which resonate with that inner knowledge and actually reinforces information . Perhaps this is an important element of aerial photography, blending abstract knowledge and image to the known sense of landscape .

Photographs taken at ground level are probably the most familiar landscape aspect and therefore more at risk of being bland and uninteresting . This could also present challenges and ideas for different ways of seeing at this level.

The John Davies photographs of Agecroft power station gives information about a landscape with urban and rural features and offers a sense of scale and distance . If the image were to be taken from ground level it would offer less information and less sense of scale . Had the photograph been taken closer to the towers so that the football game was more obvious, this could have changed the focus of the photograph to make it less about the landscape and more about the activity ,bringing the viewer into relationship rather than as observer. Is this because images that include people are easier to relate to? Can there be a relationship with the landscape if that is what the photographer feels?

To experiment with these different points of view I took the following photographs of a part of my garden.


With this aerial view I can see the layout and placing of the plant pots in relation to the space and to each other. I can see the shape and size of the pots.

This slightly elevated view tells me more about the plants and gives a sense of the direction of the gravelled area.

This slightly elevated view tells me more about the plants and gives a sense of the direction of the gravelled area.


The ground level view shows the pots and the plants in a more familiar way, giving information about the height in relation to each other.


What I learned from this experiment is that the image offers different kinds of information and that different view points reveal things I had not considered such as the height of the plants. This challenged my belief that aerial views showed more detail. In fact they may or may not show more of the landscape and the detail may or may not be there.

The sense of place is possibly relative to what is familiar and what is not. A sense of place can be revealed in any view point depending on what the photographer wants to say.

Observing Detail

Looking at the Bernd and Hiller Becher Water Towers image does draw the eye to the differences and the details. Seeing them placed in the grid is an effective idea and I have looked at lamp posts in a similar way. When something as ubiquitous as a decorative street light is seen, it may not be remembered as that different from another, but seen side by side all the differences stand out. Ideally there would be several more to create the sense of repetition. I have used the same grey tone to enhance the repetitive quality.

lamp-post-1 lamp-post-2-2 lamp-post-3-2 lamp-post-6-2






Researching Land Art : Balancings acts

What is it about looking at balancing rocks that is so compelling? Is it the unlikeliness of it? The fact that the rocks really shouldn’t be able to connect in that way and am I waiting, just waiting for them to all fall down?

There are some remarkable images of rock sculptures on this site  that look like magic and encourage me to question the relationship between people and the earth and between artists and rocks.

Research: Land Art and Photography

A great short film on YouTube shows photography as the motivation and Land Art as secondary. The film uses stills, time lapsed images and real time, showing the creation of the artwork on a beach.

The subtle weighting towards the photography rather than the land art appears more in the techniques I think. Perhaps also in the intentions and therefore the  way the photographer’s interest is directed.

Land Art Research

While preparing and settling into the research for the Land Art assignment, I am exploring things that I think might also qualify as Land Art.

This wonderful piece created by volunteers at a National Trust house is a marvel of measurement.


Staying with garden areas, is topiary a form of Land Art? It uses natural elements of the landscape although the trees may have been placed rather than self seeded.

Topiary CC0 Public Domain

Topiary CC0 Public Domain

When topiary is used to create a maze it becomes even more interesting.

Topiary maze CC0 Public Domain

Topiary maze
CC0 Public Domain

People who design and create gardens with a specific intention to create beauty are certainly creating an art form, whether it is formal or not. Some of the formal British and Japanese gardens  are extraordinary in their precision, while typical cottage gardens are often a mass of vibrant colour.

Formal Garden CC0 Public Domain

Formal Garden
CC0 Public Domain

Japanese Garden CC0 Public Domain

Japanese Garden
CC0 Public Domain








Research : Land Art Assignment : Songlines

Land Art is not new, but perhaps the relationship with the land has changed. There was a time when people lived closer to the cycles of the earth and moon. In Australia the indigenous people created what are described in English as Songlines. These create maps and tracks which are danced and chanted and sung. The rituals of listening and conversing with the ancestral spirits along the way, hearing the birds and animals that live on these songlines, and walking ancient invisible routes are all aspects of aboriginal spirituality.


Rainbow Serpent Australian Indigenous Art Creative Commons

Rainbow Serpent Australian Indigenous Art Creative Commons

“The ancestor is responsible for the law and country, a responsibility which is carried by the traditional owner of the song today. The owner of the song is responsible for the country and particular sacred places, and when the song travels over these sacred places it is sung by the traditional owner of song or country.”
Bill Harney, Wardaman Elder, 2009
Kaltjiti artist sing country, dance country and paint the song of their lands. The epic song cycles of the Western Desert peoples have resounded for thousands of years across these sand dunes of central Australia, echoed back from the orange rock faces of the granite hills and eddied around the deep blue rock holes where precious water hides from the scorching sun.

The creation ancestors first sang these songs at the dawn of time. These giant beings strode the land changing their shape from human to beast or plant, to water, earth or wind. The landscape still holds their resting forms in rounded hills, the fury of their flight was caught in twisted bloodwood trees and their flesh – know transformed – wraps the marble gums as dappled bark.

Songs sung down the generations have kept the land alive and spirit of her people strong.”

Dr Diana James, Author, Painting the Song Kaltjiti artists of the sand dune country, 2009
“Today many Aboriginal communities are wanting to explain their heritage and show visitors around their country. Firsthand knowledge gained in this way may help to understand Aboriginal Australia, as a living legacy of spiritual knowledge shared through rituals, dance, stories and journeys touching on aspects of the Dreamtime.”
Dr Irene Watson, Tanganekald & Meintangk woman, Lonely Planet Aboriginal Australia & Torres Strait Islands, Sydney, 2001

Inspired by these Songlines artists in Norfolk, England,  created their own version , marking the path with land art, using song, poetry and storytelling.


Great article in the Guardian

Abstract borders

This past summer I enjoyed a local exhibition called Borders. The image is of a painting made with acrylic and pigment. It is entitled Borders, Big Yellow, by Robert Davison.

The exhibition coincided with the opening of a walled garden at the same venue. I especially liked this painting because I recognised the white rectangles as the bricks in the painted white walls of the garden  and I could see  footprints. It is so satisfying to have a sudden realization of what the artist may have been saying through a painting. I can see the flowers that are part of a garden border, as well as the other inferences. A border can be between countries as well as between homes. It can be walked along as well as across.

Border, Big yello, Davison R. 2014

Borders, Big Yellow, Davison R. 2014

There appear to be tractor tracks which could indicate the making of the border. There is a chaotic feel to the painting, lines at different angles contribute to this and yet  the green and yellow as strong pigments suggest new growth beyond the disruption.

Landscape Artists

Landscape Artist of the Year ( 2016)

Watching this television programme on Sky Arts I have been inspired not only by the quality of work but more so by the variety of media. I am enjoying the creativity of the artists using only pen and ink and staining with coffee, or using collage with fabric and paint. Some of the linocut printing is so complex and effective. It is a medium I’ve never considered but having seen the beautiful results I have a greater appreciation for this art form.

Observing how the artist’s select the area to work with and how they frame it is helpful to me. The landscape seems so vast and confusing and using an actual frame to compose their picture, or simply identifying a slice, seems important.

I am more aware now of the point of view and perspective. In this programme the artists are asked to paint a property owned by the National Trust. These are usually beautiful houses or castles and are seen from a distance across a body of water or lawns. It occurred to me that it might be more interesting to have a higher view or even closer and looking up at the building.

Two most inspiring aspects I have discovered :

  • Landscape in art can actually refer to anything in the natural world – from  a few leaves or a pile of pebbles to a mountain range.
  •  Some  artists move parts of the landscape, such as trees, in order to create balance or interest.


Tracing time

Forty Portraits in Forty Years by Nicholas Nixon is a fascinating project featuring four sisters  ( the Brown Sisters) standing in the same position, being photographed each year for forty years. I am so attracted to it because of the changes that occur through the passage of time. They are the same four women and yet clearly they are different. Is there something about the movement of time that both preserves and ages?

Not a pretty picture

Reading the chapter entitled Melancholy Objects in Susan Sontag’s book On Photography. Sontag mentions British photographer John Thomson and further research shows that between 1876 and 1877, Thomson and a journalist named Adolphe Smith produced a monthly magazine called Street Life in London. The magazine , an early form of photo journalism, portrayed in images and text, the lives and environments of people living in poverty. Could this have been an early incarnation of the topographic photographers? Certainly there seems to be little beauty in the images and the woman in the photograph below was described as too dispirited to even beg.

The Crawlers. Thomson.J. 1887 ( Public Domain)

The Crawlers. Thomson J. 1887 ( Public Domain)

Thomson’s career included travel photography and moved eventually into portraiture for the rich and famous including the Victorian royal family. Perhaps the objectivity of his photographic eye of the most appalling conditions allowed him to simply take the photographs for his magazine which he then sold.  Did these images draw attention to the plight of these people?  In some ways, I imagine he felt no responsibility for improving their lives, but simply documenting them.

the photograph as contemporary art

Reading the photograph as contemporary art by Charlotte Cotton (Thames and Hudson world of art 2012). There is a lot to say about this book and on a physical level it is a joy to read. The excellent glossy paper on which it is printed means that the photographs are clear and crisp with good contrasts on black and white and vibrant colour. While I have been aware of the quality of paper in large format art books, it was a pleasant surprise to find this in a paperback.

One of the chapters that I have learned most from is Deadpan. I can see the development of the Topographic photographers in some way, as the purpose of the deadpan artists appears to be taking photographs with a neutrality and objectivity.

I notice my own discomfort at the idea of objectifying a person when taking a portrait in this way. I wonder if my response to this sort of photography of people is also to objectify, to not relate to the individual but to be more interested in the symmetry of the face or colour of the eyes, for example.

The more architectural images appeal to me, particularly Leipzig 47 by Matthias Hoch ( p 90). With the interesting effects of light that flatten rounded objects, and the open, yet to be used space.

These photographs invite the viewer to look closely at objects, spaces and landscapes that could easily be over-looked, and to view without the photographer’s influence. Although the photographer has chosen the subject matter, the deadpan image limits the emotional input.

Chapter 7, Revived and Remade, links to previous work on this course with appropriation of images, semiotics and communication. In a unique twist, Gillian Wearing’s series of images based around her family are a creative way of seeing the re-appropriated genes passed down through the portraits.

I am intrigued by photographers who place themselves in their photographs, either dressed as someone else ( Wearing as her father) , or both naked and then dressed as themselves ( Jemima Stehli). Does the act of being the other side of the lens in some way isolate the photographer and is this an attempt to be both remote from the image and also to be part of the image? Whereas some of these images may be deadpan, they are filled with emotional content. Some photographers have created narratives around themselves such as Aleksandra Mir with The First Woman on the Moon., which then creates extremely dramatic imagery.

Joachim Schmidt’s Pictures from the Street project featuring found photographs creates a lot of discomfort in me. The image on page 212 of a torn photograph of a young woman feels like a violation. The photograph was torn into four pieces and discarded. Is it reasonable for someone else to retrieve it and display the image of this woman, presumably without her permission? Or am I too moulded by conventional privacy laws and the sense again of the objectifying of a human being?