Traditionally, landscape photography is generally thought of in terms of “straight” or “un-manipulated” photographic imagery where the subject is more or less a “beautiful vista”. My project investigates using the landscape as a starting point that is inclusive of the traditional “straight” photographic landscape as well as a large number of “iterations” of those images by manipulations via hand work (painting and drawing on top of the image) and abstraction through manipulation via Adobe Photoshop. The resulting prints call into question the viewer’s concepts of beauty, the veracity of the photographic image and the nature of perception.
In the field of Fine Art photography the landscape has been a significant source of subject matter since the mid 1800’s. It was the photographs of Carlton E. Watkins from his 1861 expedition in to the Yosemite Valley that played an essential role in the valley being declared a National Park in 1864. Fellow photographer Timothy O’Sullivan helped document the United States government’s expansion in to the western territories as a photographer for Geological Survey while photographing the 40th Parallel. It was the images from these photographers that greatly influenced one of the most important image-makers from last century Ansel Adams. All of these photographers shared a common aesthetic that would become known as “straight photography”. Essentially, this referred to the fact that the images for the most part were not highly manipulated in the dark room and the resulting print showed extremely sharp focus though out. In fact Adams practice of “Pre-Visualization” would become the dominant aesthetic in photography circles from the 1930’s through the 1950’s and beyond. Pre-Visualization was the act of looking through the cameras lens to see the image as it would appear in the finished print. In the 1960’s a competing philosophy took rise in photographer Jerry Uelsmann. Jerry Uelsmann was a Graduate Research Professor at the University of Florida from 1960 – 1995. It was my good fortune to have Professor Uelsmann as my main professor and mentor in graduate school and beyond. Uelsmann’s work frequently uses the landscape in his photographs. However, when he photographs he does not envision a final finished print but rather uses his darkroom as a “visual research laboratory” for combining images from different sources into one seamless new reality. Jerry Uelsmann delivered a paper in 1967 to the Society for Photographic Education regarding his philosophy on photographic practice called “Post Visualization”. Post Visualization’s main tenets are that there is no reason that with the squeezing of the shutter button that the creative consciousness should be put to rest and that we should not be bound by pre-visioned ends so that you can remain open to “in-process discovery”. It is with these historical underpinnings that I make photographs.
Much to my surprise the in-process discovery lead me to so many more places than I initially thought it would. As a result "The Iterated Landscape" group of images is now compromised of several more tangents than I had ever imagined. That is indeed one of the things I love about photography....it can lead you to places you never thought you'd go.