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On Landscape Photography
It’s fascinating to surf the web and look at the wide variety of landscape photography. Whenever I do this, it seems to me that the images more or less fall into two distinct camps – the scenic landscape and the interpretive landscape.
Scenic landscapes are most often the ‘pretty picture’ or ‘postcard shot’ – sometimes presented uncritically, sometimes steeped in cliché’s and superficial emotionality. (To be honest, a lot of my lighthouse shots fall squarely into this category.) It seems that the real challenge with this form is to produce a pleasing image that still has something _more_ to offer. And by ‘more’ I mean something that is not just pulling at the hackneyed heartstrings of old emotions, but rather stimulate the viewer to have some sort of new, internal experience.
Maybe that’s asking a lot….
Interpretive landscapes are a whole ‘nuther thing. The goal here isn’t to present a pretty picture, but rather to provoke some understanding or interpretation of what the land means. In a sense, the photographer is attempting to tell the story of the place being photographed. It’s a harder task because it’s a true creative process – you are not working towards a pre-defined set of aesthetics, but rather, you are on your own, trying to understand what you are seeing and using the media of photography to communicate that.
And then there are those few photos that manage to function in both arenas, and mange to be both scenic and interpretive. Recognizing that the two modes can coexist is important, as it frees the photographer from the “either / or” mindset, and allows for free exploration of the subject.