It was quite a revelation to see the postcards that we had sent from holidays over the past few years. All of the cards were very much in the ‘picturesque’ category.
Interestingly, most images seem to have been photographed from a very elevated position, aerial photography in some cases. It is almost as if I was selecting images that I wasn’t able to capture myself. They all seem somewhat remote from any sense of identity of the place, especially the scenes of beaches, but even the scene of the theatre at Epidavros. The postcards do, though, serve a purpose in conveying to the sender, as well as the recipient, an image taken from a viewpoint they were unlikely to have seen.
The images of bays and beaches also seem remote, again having been photographed from a distance, this perhaps is intended to beautify the scene. It is considered more picturesque to view from a distance rather than convey an image of crammed together sun loungers and parasols. In this sense the remoteness is not just from the actual scene but also from the reality of it.
I think that Graham Clarke’s comments are very true – to an extent. Certainly when visiting other countries one will always take one’s own views and perspectives and these could well differ greatly from the norms and perspectives of the host country. Some of the landscape views in other countries may have religious or other significance to the people of that country, something that may not be recognised or be able to be conveyed by a photographer from another culture.
What is less obvious to me is Clarke’s statement that “landscape photography insists on the land as spectacle and involves an element of pleasure”. Perhaps this may be the case when pursuing the picturesque, but is it always the case? Whilst one is always putting one’s own interpretation of a scene, does that necessarily make one a ‘tourist’or an ‘outsider’. Perhaps to some degree the answer lies with the intention of the photographer, While there will always be an element of interpretation to the scene, some photographers go to great lengths to immerse themselves in the landscape. I am particularly thinking here of the work of Awoiska van der Molen. Describing her work in the Canaries O’HAGAN (2014) describes how she “spent long periods of time there alone, honing not just her craft but the sense of isolation needed to ‘gain access to the stoic nature of the landscape‘, as she so memorably puts it”.
O’Hagan, S. (2014) Bewitched by blackness: photographing the desolate beauty of the Canaries. At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/26/photography-awoiska-van-der-molen-sequester-canary-islands-landscape-nature (Accessed on 26 February 2018)