abstraction, black + white, digital image, rocks

scoping in landscape photography: Fleurieuscapes

October 16, 2017

I really do struggle with  my landscape  photography in and  around Encounter Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia,  even though I do a lot of scoping for it.   I struggle in the sense of having both a lots of doubts the value of this working and a lack of confidence in what I am doing —with both the coastal work and the roadside vegetation.   So I don’t get very far with working  the Fleurieuscapes project as I am not sure what I am doing with it.

I only have confidence in the abstraction side of this photographic project. The work process is now routine  and I am quite comfortable with it. I  make a digital study of the object,  sometimes convert the colour digital file to a  black and white one,   and  then  spend some time assessing  the image  for possibilities for  a 5×4 photo session.  Is it worth doing? If so, what is the best way to approach this?  This is an example of the work process –some granite rocks on the beach at Petrel Cove.

granite study for 5×4

I have sat on this image for a couple of months at least.  In fact I scoped it a year ago and I’d left it sitting on the computer. I re-scopped  it earlier this year when I was walking around exploring Petrel Cove whilst  on a poodlewalk.    I remembered that I had previously photographed this bit of rock and that I  wasn’t happy with what I had done, but I had thought that it had possibilities for a black and white 5×4 photoshoot  using the baby Sinar (F2). So  I re-scoped it.  

Although it’s taken  me a while to get this place where I am ready to  photograph these rocks with  the 5×4, I didn’t lack confidence  in what I was doing with photographic  abstraction.  It just took me a while to work through it. I guess   that having published a  book on abstract photography  makes a difference in the confidence stakes.

It’s the other local work that I struggle with–until I came across the early landscape work of John Blakemore.  He returned to  photograph in  the same locations--the coastal rocks  and a local stream-  year after  year that he did after his social documentary photography and before   shifting  to his  detailed still lives and then  to photographing light.  Blakemore’s  landscape work (1970-1980?) is more than  a simple celebration of natural beauty.  ‘Metamorphosis’ and ‘All Flows’ developed his  sense of using photography as a metaphor for communicating his feelings  and  for  exploring the landscape as a metaphor showing it as a dynamic form of energy, both as a constructive and destructive force.

This photography of the Midlands in the 1970s ( eg.,Thomas Joshua Cooper) could be seen as a kind of an anglicized offshoot of the world of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Minor White, committed to darkroom and photographic skills of a high order. There is a tendency  in the pastoral tradition  to romanticise and idyllicise the pre-industrial landscape and our connection to it. However, Blakemore considers himself to be ‘a photographer in landscape rather than of landscape’. He explores themes of energy and and cycles of regeneration of growth, decay and regeneration in his local landscapes  often through building up an image using multiple short exposures.

Another scoping possibility  from the roadside vegetation explorations for a 5×4 b+w photo session that I have been sitting for several months:

Bark, Baum Rd, Waitpinga

This continual return to the same location is exactly what I have been doing along the coast and along the back country roads. What Blakemore’s early landscape work  shows me is that  it is not crazy to  photograph   like  I do, namely,   to return again and again to the same locations.  It is a becoming familiar with the location,  as well as  developing a relationship with it to the extent of becoming a part of it. This is going  under the skin of a places by forcing me  to photograph the details that compose the landscape.  This  is a sustained engagement and from it emerges a body of work. A familiarity  with the landscape means that I start to became aware of the process of  change in the landscape from  the wind, water and sun —- the process of time in the landscape.  I become  familiar with this from putting in the time ie., practice, practice, practice on a daily basis.

But why am I photographing/playing  in these locations?

One suggestion I have previously  put on the table is that my immersion in the landscape has been   ‘about the moment’, or  more specifically, about  fleeting moments  in the ordinary: ie.,  photographs of humble, unpretentious objects that are here today and gone tomorrow. These are usually photographed in  fleeting light whilst on my poodlewalks.  But what am I exploring by doing this? What am I trying to say? The photographs are  not just about the natural beauty of humble objects;  nor are they pure form,  or abstractions,  or  metaphors  for my subjectivity–eg.,Stieglitz’s  “equivalents”, or the spirit of the place eg., the mystery of the cosmos in a puddle.

What then? Therein lies my problem.

salt on granite ledge

I cannot organise the selected images into a book until I have sorted out what I am exploring or trying to  saying with this kind  of work. Saying that  the theme of the project is ‘the  life of the beach’, the transitory,  or it is about  humble things  doesn’t get me very far at all.

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