Background to this Research

Some landscape photographers, such as Ansel Adams, can find a location and pre-visualise a composition that will achieve their required narratives, meanings and emotions, etc. Then, they will wait for the appropriate conditions before making the image. This may entail returning to the same location multiple times before their pre-visualisation is achieved, let alone the right conditions are prevailing.

However, I, and I believe many other photographers, see a potential image then very quickly and intuitively make our compositions without any deliberation regarding the meanings or emotions we want to convey.  We may then review our image and make adjustments but often we will move on to the next scene without further thinking.

What is this “intuitive composition” how does it occur and how can we take control of the process in order to create deliberate narratives with an emotional content that will intrigue viewers?

I will use “practice as research” techniques to investigate these problems.

The cultural and vernacular landscapes of remote, marginal communities are created out of a need to survive. They consist of “elements”, both objects and constructions that have been placed there for mundane purposes or to make small improvements to the quality of a life, far from urban amenities.

These elements are functional, often crude and designed and placed with no thought given to their relationships within the wider landscape. Unlike the artist creating an “installation”, whoever built these elements had no deliberate compositional intentions. There was no attempt to relate the element to its landscape in order to communicate particular messages or to evoke emotions or reactions in the viewer.

These constructed elements can be in conflict with the visitors’ romanticised expectations of a “sublime and picturesque landscape”. Visitors can perceive these elements as intrusions or impositions onto the landscape that jar with their expectations.

Yet, over time, with weathering, redundancy or just presence these elements can become accepted, even attractive, focal points within a landscape. Do these elements change as they age or do visitors’ attitudes change as the elements gather historical and social significance through their use and persistence?

I have noticed in my own practice and that of other landscape photographers, that we often seek out such man-made constructions, however small within the scene, to be the primary focal point. Why is this?

I will be using traditional research techniques to address these issues.