Sunday, 17 February 2013
A lovely day? Drat! Or, the joys of landscape photography.
I am enjoying the sunshine today, albeit through gritted teeth. I'm making very slow progress with landscape assignment one, and not through lack of trying. To recap: I've decided to do quite a strict typology of winter images. After a lot of exploration, documented in earlier entries, something finally came together in my mind as an idea and I am now quite fixated on finishing this set (I need twelve pictures). The set will continue the exploration from my last two PWDP assignments and is in some ways a different way of looking at two subjects that really interest me (trees and houses).
For reasons that will become obvious when you see the set, I need to take a good number of the pictures in Bognor: indeed that is where the idea first came to me. The set isn’t about Bognor exactly and has some London images; it’s just that Bognor is a rich source of potential material. I was there for four days over Christmas and managed to add a few pictures, but the weather was against me (much rain alternating with occasional bright sunshine) so I made little progress. I planned a trip in mid-January but snow meant the trains weren’t running and I couldn’t get there. I went down last weekend and it poured with rain. I did manage to get two pictures last weekend but if I explain how I got them I think you will see why there are only two. I’d spotted the pictures beforehand, and to get them my friend very kindly drove her car as near as possible to the spot, and then I got out and struggled to take pictures while holding an umbrella to keep the driving rain off the lens. From time to time I had to get back into the car to dry everything off. Eventually the umbrella gave up the ghost and broke (it was seriously windy). I got very wet and rather muddy, but am happy with my two pictures. I just need four more…
So my friend has very kindly agreed to let me stay again next weekend. I have a good idea of what I want to photograph, having reconnoitred the area. I just need one dullish day – even a few dullish hours – to finish the set. I'm not showing the work in progress as I want to show the whole set for – I think it needs to be seen that way for best effect.
Why dullish? why not use sunny pictures, or snowy ones? I took a lot of pictures during the snow and had hoped that maybe one or two would be useful. But they just don’t fit this particular set. The pictures I hope to put forward will be quite severe and not fussy. The snow pictures I took were in the area I live in, which is a densely packed suburb with very little clear space anywhere, so they are really just too busy for this set. I don’t like the idea of never photographing in sunshine (as some photographers do) but this set wants to be in dullish weather and a few sunny pictures in the middle just wouldn't work.
Waiting for the right conditions is of course a landscape photographer’s lot and I have to say that this struggle gives me a new appreciation of the work of the Bechers.
I've been reading ‘Bernd and Hilda Becher - Life and Work’ by Susanne Lange. Looking across the work the rigour of the typologies becomes very clear. Anyone even vaguely familiar with it will know that everything is shot in the same flat light. But in addition the Bechers (Bernd in particular, we are told) are interested in outlines, so that all the pictures show the object outlined against the sky. There are almost no pictures with compromised or messy outlines. In many ways the pictures, whether of domestic half-timbered structures or the industrial buildings for which they are best known, are like an obsessive collector’s prized specimens, row after row, tray after tray, pinned down and flattened out for display against an appropriately neutral background. Thinking about this made me realise how much what I am interested in in this work is contrast and juxtaposition, as well as pattern. In addition the Bechers’ rigour and lack of fussiness appeals to my sense of design and that is something this set will explore. Sometimes I feel a conflict between this patterning controlling tendency and a desire to document the messiness of the world I live in. Resolving that tension satisfactorily will be one of my main challenges in making my books later this year. The desire for beauty and order is a subject that interests Mark Power also, and when I write my essay on his work I intend this to be one of the main themes I explore.
Posted by Eileen at 11:37