Notes on Context
I came to this project on the back of my research into the history of landscape art, an investigation that touched on painting, photography and landscape gardening, mediums that turned out to be surprisingly interrelated. The essays that record this research are posted, here:
The series references a number of photographers.
The original idea to take on the challenge of photographing the landscape through the branches of trees came from, to me, the quite surprising source of Lee Friedlander. His recently published book, Western Landscapes (1) contains a number of photographs where the foreground is dominated by unruly tangles of bare branches. They are enigmatic but strangely alluring, a sense of peeping out through the undergrowth, often at the majestic Western landscape. It was Friedlander’s friend and contemporary Garry Winogrand who said “I have a burning desire to see what things look like photographed by me” and I wonder whether this also part of Friedlander’s motive.
Once the idea was implanted I looked carefully at Jem Southam. Unfortunately I do not own a copy of The Painter’s Pool but have reviewed many of the pictures on line and particularly enjoyed his interview with Andrew Nadolski where he explained why he had embarked on that project.
“How does someone who draws or paints deal with the extraordinary visual complexities presented when standing in the canopy of a wood?” (6)
I was taken by the idea that one of Britain’s best known landscape photographers would set himself such a direct challenge and whilst I had no expectations of achieving the same results I felt that to photograph similar environments would help me develop my practice.
I do have copies of The Red River (3) and River Winter (4) (my review is written up here) and, as might be expected, Southam’s approach to winter, river, untamed nature and the intervention of man were all influential. Also, and very importantly, Southam’s work is imbued with a deep sense of the history of the land, a subject that directs a lot of my work and that played a significant part in my project for assignment 1.
Damian Ward is an English landscape photographer working mostly in the Chilterns. Like Southam he appears to have invested a significant amount of time in a single landscape, an approach which allows the photographer to seek out the essence of that land.
Woodwork (5) is a series taken in or on the fringes of forest and I found Ward’s use of colour to differentiate the detail of these seemingly chaotic spaces particularly interesting.
David Baker is a Southampton based photography who has often worked in the New Forest. Ridge Trees (6) is another series published by Kozu Books that exclusively focuses on trees. Baker’s work is an interesting mixture of work that speaks to the “fine art” photography market and sensitive studies of the atmosphere of deep woodland. When working inside the forest the photograph can never include the “whole” it is always a component, a detail, that is selected and I found his compositions of parts of trees particularly helpful in moving me away from attempting to frame too large a scene.
(1) Friedlander, Lee (2016) Western Landscapes. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery.
(3) Southam, Jem (1989) The Red River. Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications
(4) Southam, Jem (2012) The River Winter. London: MACK
(5) Ward, Damian (ND) Woodwork. Bath: Kozu Books
(6) Baker, David (ND) Ridge Trees. Bath: Kozu Books
(2) Nadolski, Andrew (2013) Stories from the Land: Jem Southam in Conversation with Andrew Nadolski (accessed at On Landscape 21.2.17) – https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2013/03/jem-southam-interview/