“a view from sitting still, from a stationary point, is not the way you usually see landscape; you are always moving through it.” (Hockney 2016)
At the beginning of this course I read the above quote and it has intrigued me since. Hockney has strong views on photography one of my first entries in Learning Log described his view of the limitations of a landscape photograph – its use of single point perspective as well as being a view from a fixed point rather than moving through it. He thinks that “Human beings look from different directions, with two eyes, constantly moving, as we ourselves move around and look” (Gayford 2017 p56). He describes conventional photography as being like “looking at the world from the point of view of a paralysed cyclops–for a split second.” (Tate s.d.).
I was also taken by some of the points made by John Fowles in his introduction to the book Land by Fay Godwin. He talks of finding some landscape photography very far removed from what he looks for which is a personal and direct experience of it “What interests me in a landscape is above all its natural history, its flowers, trees, birds, spiders, insects, creatures of all kinds” (Godwin 1985 p.ix).
These were all issues that I wanted to approach in the way that I undertook Assignment 6. I decided to photograph a small area, called Toll’s Meadow, which is just outside the centre of the town where I live. It is a nature conservation area, frequented mostly by dog walkers, although most times you would not see anyone there. I decided to look at how the site changed over the four seasons, and the different look of the land depending on the time of the year.
I tried to work out an approach that would counter the ‘paralysed cyclops’ argument, that brought out what I found interesting as I walked around the meadow throughout the year. I wanted to show the wider view, but also the individual small items that make up the landscape when we look closely at it. Hockney has tried to address the issue of single point perspective in his Pear Blossom Highway (1986) or Sun On The Pool (1982).
I had an idea after seeing a display of Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces (1972-3) at Tate modern.
The display comprised some 72 photographs of everyday scenes that Shore had taken on a road trip across America. The whole display comprised a complete range of images from portraits to landscapes to interior close-ups. Each individual image contributing to the effect of the overall display. I thought that perhaps I could approach Assignment 6 in a similar fashion. I thought that producing it as a mosaic or collage could be effective.
Later that year I saw a display at the British Museum of some of their more recent acquisitions. This included a sheet from Atlas (1962-89) by Gerhard Richter. This was 28 colour photographs of clouds, mounted on a sheet of white card. Currently consisting of more than 800 sheets, Atlas is a collection of photographs, newspaper cuttings and sketches that the artist has been assembling since the mid 1960s (Atlas » Gerhard Richter (s.d.)). This gave me the idea that I could take a whole series of photographs of Toll’s meadow and combine them into a single image to convey the transition in its appearance across the seasons. I considered mounting physical prints as Richter and Shore’s work had been displayed, but I thought that mounting them as a single overall image would emphasise the unity of the component parts. Initially I was going to leave a white border around each image, but thought that, again, this would work against unifying the whole. At this point I decided that, in order to signify the transition of the location, across the year, I would use 365 separate photographs to produce on complete image. I had taken many hundreds of photos of Toll’s Meadow over the period of this course, so I printed contact sheets of them and chose the 365 that I thought showed everything that was happening there, from the broad view to the ‘flowers, trees and creatures’ that caught my attention. The final image is my view of Toll’s Meadow over the year, what I have seen there, what is important, the beauty and the threats it faces.
The images are not in chronological order but they are, very strictly, grouped by seasons. So any individual image will only border another image from the same season (or the next season when at the point of changeover). I felt that this was important to the coherence of the whole. The final image has a white border around the edge, but this is for assessment purposes only. Were it to be displayed I envisage the print being displayed on a cylindrical backdrop so that there is no obvious start or end point and the viewers would ‘walk around the landscape’ as they were viewing it.
At the suggestion of my tutor I constructed a scale model of how it would look when exhibited in this way.
This assignment, and the course as a whole, has had a significant effect on my ideas around landscape. Before starting the course I would never have even thought of submitting a final image such as this. The work I have done on the course, the background reading I have researched and he exhibitions I have visited have all contributed to the much broader view that I now have. The work that I did for Assignment 4 gave me the confidence to attempt a montage for the final assignment.
My view of landscape has broadened, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the ‘paralysed cyclops’ view, I think that photography has far more to offer, not just in landscape. But it did give me a challenge to try to overcome, and one which I enjoyed undertaking.
Atlas » Gerhard Richter (s.d.) At: https://www.gerhard-richter.com/en/art/atlas?p=25&sp=32 (Accessed on 3 December 2018)
Gayford, M. (2011) ‘The many layers of David Hockney’ In: The Daily Telegraph 23 September 2011 [online] At: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/8782275/The-many-layers-of-David-Hockney. html (Accessed on 3 December 2018)
Gayford, M. (2017) ‘Hockney’s World of Pictures’ In: Tate Etc. Spring (39) pp.48–59.
Godwin, F. (1985) Land. Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.
Hockney, D. (2016) ‘David Hockney on what turns a picture into a masterpiece’ In: The Guardian 26 September 2016 [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/sep/26/david-hockney-what-turns-a-picture-into-a -masterpiece (Accessed on 3 December 2018)
Tate (s.d.) David Hockney: 60 years of work – Exhibition Guide | Tate. At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/david-hockney-1293/60-years-work (Accessed on 3 December 2018)