Over several years, I have noticed that the human constructs I use in my images as focal points can have one of three different purposes and significances. These are:
- As a mid-ground or distant element but still a focal point within the landscape. The message is that the element is lonely, isolated and insignificant within the landscape.
- As the key foreground element that represents only what it is, nothing more nor less. The landscape gives context to the object but the story is about the object and its construction, state of repair, etc..
- Appearing as an “installation”. The element may have been placed in the landscape for purely functional reasons. But, the way I have composed it within the landscape and because of its shapes or constructional features it looks as if it was deliberately designed and placed by an artist, in response to the landscape.
What makes these last images different? Why do they look like installations?
In both cases, the man-made elements are large in the frame and centrally placed. They are also the only significant, identifiable element in the image.
The gravel around the concrete block in the upper image and the mud tracks around bonfire in the lower image both look like a stage or a dais for the object to sit upon. Like a sculpture.
Finally, the significant elements are both made from materials that would not, naturally, be found in such locations. So, the materials have been transported there and these objects constructed deliberately.
A small change to the composition of the “bonfire” image can make a large difference to its interpretation as seen below.
The bonfire is no longer central. However, it is still the most significant element. Now we can see the tracks more clearly, they look less like a dais. Their true function as the paths used to deliver wood to the bonfire is now clear.
The bonfire is made up from uniform pieces of fence palings. In this composition, the small length of upright fence has appeared on the far right of the image. Therefore, we can surmise that the bonfire is made from pieces of such fencing that are no longer required. The bonfire is just a means to get rid of unwanted wood without the effort of having to transport it down the mountain.
Overall, the man-made object no longer appears as an installation but as a purely functional and practical object.
The concrete block in the upper image is also purely functional. It is a support for a bend in the unseen water pipes that feed a hydro-electric power station a few hundred feet below.
With reference to my research the idea of objects becoming “installations” is not in line with my thesis about human constructions becoming focal points for photographers within a landscape. This is because, once the object appears as an installation it is so dominant within the image that the remaining landscape becomes just a canvas for its presence. The story is no longer about the landscape. It is about the object.
My images will need to follow a fine line where the human construct is a lesser (certainly no more than equal) player to the landscape within the narrative of the image.