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This blog is intended to showcase my pictures or those of other photographers who have moved beyond the pretty picture and for whom photography is more than entertainment - photography that aims at being true, not at being beautiful because what is true is most often beautiful..

>>>> Comments, commentary and lively discussions, re: my writings or any topic germane to the medium and its apparatus, are vigorously encouraged.

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In Situ ~ la, la, how the life goes onLife without the APADoorsKitchen SinkRain2014 • Year in ReviewPlace To SitART ~ conveys / transports / reflectsDecay & DisgustSingle WomenPicture WindowsTangles ~ fields of visual energy (10 picture preview) • The Light + BW mini-galleryKitchen Life (gallery) • The Forks ~ there's no place like home (gallery)


ku # 451- Talking about landscape photography

Lake Placid (the lake) from Whiteface - Click on photo to emgiggen it

"I'm starting to come to the conclusion that perhaps landscape photographers don't actually know how to talk about landscape photography." ~ Tom Hogan, writing about The Luminous Landscape on his Recommended Products page.

About a month ago, I was tempted to write a rather scathing post about Michael Reichmann's The Luminous Landscape and this little tidbit brought back my focus to the subject. Actually it was to be about Mr. Reichmann's stated self-dillusional claim that the TLL "site is completely (his emphasis) non-commercial". That claim is immediately followed by 2 large ads for; 1)a subscription to The LL Video Journal - $179.95 for 9 issues/DVDs, and 2) his hard cover book, Bangladesh - $29.95. Clicking on "What's New" will take you to a rich assortment of "openings" on Mr. Reichmann's various photography travel/expedition workshops - book now, they're filling up fast - and other book (ex. - How To Master Landscape Photography) and workshop offerings from a favored few associates.

Now, perhaps Mr. Reichmann's definition of "commercial" is different from that held by the rest of the world, but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck...

To be fair, there is an assortment of articles, but, to quote Tom Hogan again, "Michael doesn't quite seem to know what he wants the site to be when it grows up, so it tends to follow his latest curiosity and gear interest at the expense of consistency and focus. Given the name, you'd think this would be a place where you could easily answer the question "how do I take the best possible landscape photos?" Sometimes you'll get pieces of that answer here; other times you'll just get highly subjective gear lust pieces."

To which I would add that most of the photography-related articles (non gear-related) are of the "camera club" variety - heavy on technique that is slanted towards creating "masterful" ("perfectly" exposed and composed), "luminous" (it's all about the light, folks), and "artful" (I distort [romanticise] the reality of the landscape because I am an artist and it's how I see it) photographs.

All in all, I would have to say that Mr. Reichmann has a very popular and successful commercial enterprise that caters well to the photo hobbyist. I have no problem with that. It's his incessant insistence that TLL is something other than that which irks me. He also thinks himself to be an Artist. I think he's an artist, but we won't venture into that bailiwick/boondoggle.

But, back to Tom Hogan's statement re: don't actually know how to talk about landscape photography.

I like looking at landscape photography more than I like talking about it. However, when I do talk about it - be sure to visit my blog, The Landscapist, to see what I'm talking about - I tend to talk more about the medium of photography in general than landscape photography in particular. That said, I have been somewhat possessed for a while to contibute ideas and notions aimed towards creating a New Landscape Manifesto.

That is to say, a manifesto that reflects the reality of times. One that addresses David Hockney's assertation that "If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. He's not a little peripheral figure entertaining rich people, he's really needed..." One that addresses the notion that what is true is most often beautiful. One that addresses intent and responsisibility. One that admits that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

In short, a New Landscape Manifesto that recognizes that photography matters, not only to the Artist who makes it, but also to the culture that embraces it.

Anybody want to talk about that?

PS. If you do, start here on this post, but, if the interest is there, I will open a Manifesto Discussion Forum so the topic stays on view in the Navigation section.

FEATURED COMMENT: Joel Truckenbrod wrote. "Mark, off topic a bit, but I wanted to mention that your "Lake Placid from Whiteface" photo is..."

Publisher's comment: Joel, thanks very much for the positive feedback on my photograph. I appreciate it very much, but I do want to mention (for all of you out there) that commenting on my photographs is most often not "off topic" in as much as the photographs that accompany my commentary are; 1) chosen because they relate in some way to the topic at hand, or, 2) the topic at hand is a direct by-product of the accompanying photograph.

NOTE TO ONE AND ALL - please feel free to comment on any photography posted on The Landscapist. More than anything, the photography is ultimately what it's all about. Although, I often wonder about Carl Donahue's question, "What if the hokey-pokey is what it's all about?"


some FYI

I really appreciate the feedback regarding the move to SquareSpace. It's been very helpful in determining how I have set this blog up. One thing in particular to note, several of you have commented that 900×900pixel image popups are too big for your screens. As much as I might like to purchase 20" Apple Cinema displays for everyone, I have decided that downsizing the photographs to 750×750 would be more cost effective. Please let me know if this works for everyone

Don't hesitate to comment on issues regarding the set up of The Landscapist. Anything I am able to do to improve it, I will.

A plug for SquareSpace - I have found blog set up to be very easy and intuitive. On the few issues with which I had trouble, their email support has been very efficient and helpful. SquareSpace has number of features that I haven't implimented yet - site and topic specific Disscussion Forums, direct image upload to private folders for those of you who might want a prints-for-sale gallery here - but will be adding shortly. All in all I would venture that it's hip to be square.


civilized ku # 2

click to embiggen

Be careful what you wish for. I can't say that I really "wish" to be labeled as an Observationist, I'm just sorta rumaging around in the big and tall guys department, trying on suits and standing in front of the fun-house "mirrors" to see what fits (and looks good). The "mirrors" (all of you out there) tell me that I'm not going to be able to buy off the rack - that makes sense since my dad always said I had champagne taste and a beer wallet.

In any event, on the topic of "careful", there was a FEATURED COMMENT on yesterday's post that asked, "Does being an observationist mean you will notice things like when I get my hair cut? ~ signed, the wife.

I noticed the comment first thing this AM - before coffee but after my AM trip to the bathroom - so I wasn't entirely with it. Heading downstairs to get coffee, I passed by the wife in the hall amd simply muttered "No", and I kept on moving. She responded with, "No, what?", and I kept on moving.

In the kitchen, a few sips of coffee later, she stated that she hadn't asked me any questions. I countered with a "yes you did", to which, and without a moment's hesitaton, she responded, "I thought your blog was intended to encourage conversation."

Jeeezzz. So I kept on moving.

And, hey Mary, thanks for piling on.


civilized ku # 1

click to embiggen

Shadings and hints of another reality outside my "window".

I am surrounded by landscape. After all, I live in a park which is the largest wilderness in the eastern US - bigger than the state of Vermont, bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, The Grand Canyon and The Everglades parks combined. Traveling by car from the NE edge to the SW edge of the park, the trip takes 3.5-4 hours. It's big.

It's also diverse; 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 3,000 lakes and "ponds", 46 mountains over 4,000 ft., as well as being home to approximately 120,000 humans who are spread out in 100 small villages and hamlets. About half of the park is protected as "forever wild" public land. Private lands/development are strictly controlled by the Adirondack Park Agency.

Needless to say, there are about one zillion photo opportunities. For most of the last 4 years I have been scratching the surface of the natural landscape photography-wise, that is, if you can call my ku body of work comprised of over 450 photographs "scratching the surface" (and I do). Recently, I have felt compelled to photograph more evidence of the hand of man in the Adirondack landscape in order to illustrate man's relationship with the natural evironment here in the park. These photographs are being created under the name of "urban" ku, although the word "urban" is not really very apt. Perhaps "civilized" ku would be better.

In any event, I am now expanding my idea of landscape to include photographs such as the one posted here. There is just too much life going on to create photographs that only play only to a particular audience or genre. This relates to my previous post wherein I asked, what kind of photographer are you? As I slip slowly from Landscapist to Documentarian, I think that I will slip a little further and become simply an Observationist.


Let me know what you think

This might just be the way to go.

I like the gallery feature very much. No more pop-up comment window and posting a comment is on a page with the journal post. There is also a feature for visitors to subscribe to email notifications for updates.

Please let me know what you think.

PS - when and if it goes active, all previous Landscapist content will be found on blogspot.


ku # 449

click to embiggen

Finally - Up to 10 inches forecast for today and a protracted cold spell to back it up (-7F tomorrow night). Time to tune up the xc skis/snowshoes and haul out the winter mountaineering camping gear.


ku # 450- What kind of a photographer are you?

click to embiggen

I was nosing around, investigating the notion of reading photographs. Steve Durbin's featured comment on urban ku # 20 and comment on intent (see below) was the instigation.

My initial area of interest was Roland Barthes' idea of Studium and Punctum. According to Barthes, Studium stands for the general, cultured interest one has in photographs. Punctum is the personal relation, the emotional side. It occurs when one is deeply touched by a picture. Barthes writes, " is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me. A Latin word exists to designate this wound, this prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument: the word suits me all the better in that it also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely, these marks, these wounds are so many points ... A photograph's punctum is that accident which pricks me — but also bruises me, is poignant to me."

Barthes goes on to state that photos which exemplify studium appeal on "the order of liking, not loving...I glance through them, I don't recall them...I am interested in them (as I am interested in the world), I do not love them."" I don't know if Barthes ever states directly that he "loves" a photograph that "bruises me, is poignant to me, but he does state that "...While most photographs offer only the identity of an object, those that project a punctum potentially offer the truth of the subject....they challenge us outside any generality...these are the photos which take our breath away...", so I'll go out on a limb here and venture, what's not to love about photographs that meet that criteria?"

So, you might ask, what does this have to do with the question what kind of photographer are you? Well, maybe nothing...but, while I was nosing around I also came across this - from Reading Photographs by Hans Durrer : judge photographs by the — perceived — sincerity of the photographer (intent?) is highly problematic. Ansel Adams, who refers to photographers as artists, points out: 'Some of the worst artists, after all, are the most sincere... the only things that distinguish the photographer from everybody else are his pictures,' he should be judged by them, he argues, because 'major art, by definition, can stand independent of its maker'".

It is not without significance that Adams is referring here to the concept of 'beauty in photography', so the title of his book, and as far as the aesthetics of form is concerned, one cannot but agree with him. Documentary (photography), however, is not only about form, which is exactly why sincerity and biography do matter. As Stott says: 'The heart of documentary is not form or style or medium, but always content.' Furthermore, documentarists stress feelings, '... they believe that a fact to be true and important must be felt.' This is not to say that form in documentary is without relevance, this is only to say that documentary aims, primarily, at being true, not at being beautiful. Yet what is true is often beautiful."

From that I infer (and believe - always have, always will) that intent matters. Point In fact, I believe that it matters very much. Almost to the point that I believe it is a photographers (artist's) responsibility to state his intentions.

That said, the question that came to my mind after reading this excerpt was, "Am I a documentary photographer"?

I tend to think of myself as a Fine Art Landscape Photographer, although I have not ever really been comfortable with the phrase "fine art". At various times in my commercial life I have randomly functioned as a Still Life Photographer, a Fashion Photographer, a Corporate Communications Photographer, and, yes, a Documentary/Journalism Photographer (periodical feature/editorial type, not news).

Now, I know that some could care less what kind of photographer they are. They are just photographers. OK, but I think giving yourself a well thought out label, just like writng a well thought out Artist's Statement (statement of intent) is an important part of self-knowing. The only problem I have in this regard is finding the right word to use as my label. The more I think about it, the more I realize that none of the "classic" labels fit. Mostly, I feel like an observationist.

But, when I encountered the ideas that "The heart of documentary is not form or style or medium, but always content." and "...that documentary aims, primarily, at being true, not at being beautiful., and the absolute deal-clincher. "Yet what is true is often beautiful.", I must admit that the label, Doumentary Photographer, starts to sound and feel pretty good.

What kind of photographer are you?

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