Tag Archives: Landscape Photography

Guest Blogger 2 – Landscape Photography tips and advice with Toby Smith and Robert Leslie on the World Photography Organisation Blog

© Robert Leslie, Leroux Wash Arizona 2011, Stormbelt. “The most pristine water a man can take, they are drilling it out of the ground. So now the old folks are saying, “What happened to all the deer? What happened to all the birds?” All because of some greedy people lighting up the whole city of New York & LA” Navajo Nation Member

For my second post on the World Photo Organisation Blog, Landscape Photography – Getting it Right, I get some tips and advice and touch upon the question of the acceptable levels of post-production in landscape photography. This is a topic I will return to on Hotshoe Blog later.

I’m no landscape photographer so I asked two well-travelled photographers Toby Smith (TS) and Robert Leslie (RL) for some advice. One tip that is oft repeated is ‘being in the right place at the right time’. Apart from this, you also need patience, determination and a good eye.”

Read more over at the WPO blog.

Photo © Toby Smith/Reportage by Getty Images
BAOTAO, CHINA – DECEMBER 20, 2010: Coal trucks grind down-hill from an open-cast coal mine to the main-highway. Congestion at the highway, weighing points and intersections often sees the vehicles jammed for days as China attempts to redistribute its coal.

Filed under: Documentary photography, Photographers, Photographers blogs, Photojournalism Tagged: Edmund Clarke, HotShoe magazine, Landscape photography Tips, Low-light photography, Miranda Gavin, Post-production, Processing RAW, Robert Leslie, Toby Smith, World Photo Organisation Blog

Displaced History and the Art of Collective Memory

Somewhere in Switzerland there’s a municipal archive, the collective memory of a town, with negatives and newspapers and postcards and photographs that tell the story of the area from 1880–1940. It’s the collective paper memory of the place, including a picture of four children who might not have grown into respected elders, a picture of a priest who may have performed important rituals in the town, a picture of a young woman whose face you might recognize—if the town’s memories are your own.

On the other hand, for photographer Nicolas Dhervillers, who spent only six months residing in Sion, the people in those images were more like characters in a play he would write. Acting the parts to which the photographer assigned them, they appear throughout a series called My Sentimental Archives which will be exhibited at Galérie Bacqueville in Lille, France through Nov. 20. In a meditation on appropriation, each photograph is a two-in-one. Dhervillers’ landscape photography from the area was subjected to a digital process adapted from the cinematic “day for night” technique, lending an eerie look to pictures taken in broad daylight; the archival figures are placed within those landscapes and washed with the unnatural digital light.

“It was very important to find a technique that gives an impression of being ‘outside time,’” Dhervillers told TIME in an email. “Thus, it’s not about a simple photograph but rather a photograph that mixes different mediums that I particularly like: theater for the positions and attitudes of the characters, movies for the light, photography for the idea of controlling the framework, painting for the final rendering.”

Each figure from the archives—small, dusty, black and white people—has been carefully restored by Dhervillers. And, in the process of restoration, the photographer says he felt that the images raised a spiritual question: can we create a present, a now, out of the scraps of the past? “The appropriation of the collective memory, of photographic memory, overlaps with the desire to question a picture in a larger sense,” he said. “This series takes us into a fictional space outside of time, through the photographic processing.”

Dhervillers has worked with appropriated figures before; his series Tourists uses images taken from the internet. But in this case, in the end, his questions about photographic appropriation took on another dimension: the archives from which Dhervillers took the figures did, in a way, become “his.” Even if he didn’t share the town’s history, he felt he knew its inhabitants well. “I spent a lot of time with these little characters,” he said. “I raised them, I colorized them, I gave them life.”

This interview has been translated from French.


Nicolas Dhervillers is a Paris-based photographer represented by School Gallery/Olivier Castaing in Paris.

Looking at the Land From the Comfort of Home

Andy Adams works almost exclusively in the virtual world of contemporary photography. Whether you visit his photography website FlakPhoto.com, follow him on Twitter or take part in his daily Facebook discussions, you’ll find Adams diligently working as a young cultural anthropologist. Reaching far into the online photo ether, Adams always tries to present us with something new that he hopes you’ll be equally thrilled by.

Since 2006 FlakPhoto has grown to become a defining resource for anyone interested in the latest trends in photography online. Institutions like the RISD Museum of Art have recently taken notice of his work, calling upon Adams to curate an installation and accompanying online exhibition to complement its most recent massive show America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now.

In the fall of 2010, Adams curated a similar project for FotoWeek in Washington, D.C. called 100 Portraits, which was a broad survey of contemporary portraiture. Beyond the physical installation Adams, of course, put the project in its entirety on the Internet. LightBox recently spoke to Adams about his projects:

[100 Portraits] was the beginning of my realization that you could bring the ideas of online publishing and art exhibition together to produce a public digital exhibition for everyone in the world that has access to the Internet.

The focus of the RISD exhibition curated by Jan Howard is an historical survey of American Landscape photography from 1865 till now. The parameters for ‘Looking at the Land’ were also very broad and the website component is an exploration of current photography in the documentary style with interviews that analyze and understand the evolving landscape photo tradition. 

The constraints were fairly simple — I wanted this to reflect contemporary styles and current practice, and photographers exploring new directions. In the interest of serendipitous discovery, and hoping I would see something new, I put out a public call online seeking images ‘depicting the American Landscape since 2000.’

While curating the 100 Portraits project, which I coproduced with Larissa Leclair of the Indie Photobook Library, she impressed upon me the idea that this web site that I’ve been publishing every day was becoming a kind of archive and collection unto itself. In a way, the Web has become this giant collection of contemporary photography—portfolio websites, photo blogs, Tumblrs. That’s really interesting. 

What I’ve witnessed in the last few years is this real anxiety about the abundance of images in the world, on the Internet. That’s one way to see things. I prefer to view the situation as one with infinitely more opportunities to discover new, interesting work. Of course, the hazard of what I did here is that you have to look through more than 5,000 pictures to make sense of it all.

I’m interested in learning why people photograph landscape so I asked each of the 88 photographers the same questions: ‘What compels you to photograph the land? What does that mean?’ 

One of the things that I’m trying to do is to foreground the perspective of the image-maker. This may be another way to add meaning to that huge abundance of pictures. 

I also asked each photographer: ‘Why did you photograph this place?’

With landscape photography it’s easy to tell a pro-environmentalism narrative that shows the destruction of the land or how human alterations have forever destroyed that land. That’s all true, of course. But I don’t have an agenda with this project; I’m more interested in understanding why contemporary image-makers make landscape photographs to learn how that tradition is evolving in the 21st century.

If there is a dominant theme in the show it probably is the absurd juxtaposition of nature and culture, recognition that this is the way things are now, that we co-exist with nature. Rather than preach at the spectator, many of these images describe that disconnect with irony and humor.  

One of the things that I think might be indicative of this generation is that you have all these photographers that grew up in suburban sprawl, so that whole concept of home and place is different. Maybe we’re not even lamenting development and the loss of wilderness anymore because we’ve come of age without it? I see a lot of these photographers coming to terms with those ideas and the place where nature and culture are colliding. That’s why some of these pictures seem humorous or ironic. They are less an indictment and more of an acknowledgment.

It was important for me to show the American landscape and real places. America looks very different than it did 100 years ago. It’s also important to remember that these images are not objective facts — they’re subjective interpretations, personal perspectives about how the world looks today. 

This is very much a research project that I’m making public. The ideas that I’m trying to understand and the things that we are interested in have existed before this exhibition and they will exist after. I’ve attempted to tap into the new public sphere that exists in the global online photo community, to learn collectively what these things mean and to hopefully contribute to the history of things, so one day people can look back and learn from it. That’s the bigger picture goal.”

Andy Adams is the founder of FlakPhoto.com and curator of Looking at the Land — 21st Century American Views, a collaboration with the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. The exhibition is on view until Jan. 13 and you can visit the online version here.

Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley

The Mississippi is, according to song, a river of black water and mud. But, over a 100-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, something else flows. The nearly 150 petrochemical plants along those banks mean that the region has one of the highest concentrations of industry in the United States. That cluster of facilities, and the resulting pollution and increased cancer rates, have earned the area the nickname “Cancer Alley.”

Richard Misrach first traveled to Cancer Alley in 1998, producing a series of images that were exhibited as part of a “Picturing the South” series at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. “I’d never heard of this area,” Misrach recalls. “And when I finally saw the landscape, I was shocked. It was really extreme—the amount of industry along the river and the poor communities living there—I couldn’t believe it actually existed.”

In February, May and November of 2010, Misrach returned to the region, only to discover that little had changed. “It was impossible to tell if it’d gotten worse or better,” the photographer says. “It looks the same. It feels the same. The roads are still below par, and the schools are as well.” Misrach’s photographs from his latest trip—along with some of his 1998 originals—are again on display at the High Museum of Art, in an exhibition aptly titled “Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley.” The photographs show a bleak, desolate region, and one in which factories and plants are almost always present in the background.

But Misrach says some of the most poignant aspects of the region couldn’t be captured by camera. “What’s not shown is the constant stirring sound; I’m amazed people can work,” he says. “And the smells, from the gasoline stench to the chemicals in the air. That’s what you can’t see.”

The exhibit Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley is on view at the High Museum from June 2 through Oct. 7, 2012.

You can see Richard Misrach’s project on the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley fire here.

Dust to Dust: The Mythical Graves of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

When photographer Nick Ballon traveled to Bolivia last October to take pictures of San Vicente, the town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are said to have been killed in 1908, he went to the museum dedicated to that history and saw the guns that belonged to the legendary outlaws. Much later, when he had returned home to London and began to write his captions, he sent a picture to a firearms expert for confirmation that the Smith & Wesson pictured was actually the gun in question. The answer came back: No. But, says the photographer, that’s kind of the point.

“The thing that interested me most is that the myth carries on even though there’s huge evidence that Butch Cassidy and Sundance didn’t die there,” he says. “People still tell the stories.”

Ballon first heard the story last summer. The photographer is half Bolivian and travels to the country every year to see his family, so he keeps an eye on news out of Bolivia. He read a film was being made about the legend—that Cassidy and Sundance ended up in San Vicente at the tail end of a streak through South America that began May 1, 1905, when they left their ranch in Argentina to escape the Pinkerton detectives on their trail, that they robbed the payroll of the silver-mining company that owns San Vicente and were killed in a shoot-out shortly after—and was intrigued by the tourists who will make an arduous trip to a distant town despite the fact that the town’s claim to fame is tenuous.

The blur of fact and fiction is the open secret of San Vicente. A grave said to be Cassidy’s was exhumed and DNA tests proved once and for all that it was a different man’s body. In reality, though the outlaws passed through the town, they probably died many years later, in North America. Ballon says that perhaps they encouraged the myth of their deaths as a way to disappear and leave their criminal lives behind.

That sense of mystery and myth informed the pictures that Ballon made: landscapes that create a sense of atmosphere and still lifes that add character, specific and ambiguous at the same time.

“It was about trying to create a sense of who they were and where they were, because that’s what I know. They were there and they traveled these trails and they spent this time in Bolivia,” says Ballon. The photographer trekked the trails where Butch Cassidy would have ridden and rode the same trains. The rock formations, eerie and barren, look just as they would have looked over a century ago, when the Sundance Kid first saw them. And the sense of isolation is magnified because—appropriately enough—there is no one there.

“The project for me was not about creating a factual document of what actually happened, because there are so many versions of what happened,” says Ballon. “That was the strength of the project for me: all the mystery behind that, the fact that everyone has a story to tell.”

Nick Ballon is a London-based photographer. See more of his work here.

Do Process: Jennifer F. Schlesinger

This week I am featuring artists exhibiting in Verve Gallery’s Do Process exhibition, showcasing eight unique approaches to the photographic process.

I’m not quite sure how Jennifer Schlesinger does it all–she’s a mother, gallery director, and talented photographer and is consistently able to create evocative images and explore new ideas and processes. Jennifer has spent the past year exploring and perfecting the hand-coated Albumen Paper process. Jennifer’s work in this exhibition is from her new series, Here nor There. Her inspiration comes from observing her young daughter’s innocence and imagination. Jennifer’s images are metaphors for capturing the initial magical and mysterious moments of inspiration. The artist believes that when adults learn to harness our youthful imagination, then we bring forth innovation and progress to the larger world around us.

Jennifer graduated from the College of Santa Fe in 1998 with a B.A. in Photography and Journalism. Her work has been published online and in print in publications such as Black and White Magazine U.S and UK, Diffusion Magazine and many others. Schlesinger is represented in public collections, including the Huntington Botanical Art Collections (CA), The New Mexico Museum of Art and the New Mexico History Museum / Palace of the Governors Photo Archives. She has received several honors in recognition of her work including a Golden Light Award in Landscape Photography from the Maine Photographic Workshops in 2005. In 2007 she was awarded the Center for Contemporary Arts Photography Auction Award. Schlesinger is co-founder of finitefoto.com, a new media collective that investigates and promotes the intersection of photography and culture in the State of New Mexico.

The recipe for Albumen prints is simple, using everyday egg whites—“Break the eggs into a cup, carefully avoiding the mixture of yolk with the whites….”. Albumen is the sticky substance of egg whites and is the emulsion that is used to coat the paper. Albumen is the perfect process for Jennifer’s Here not There body of work. Albumen combines magical and scientific elements to produce a photographic image and is a perfect example of progress through invention. It is difficult to imagine the moment of inspiration where one of the greatest advancements in photography took place. Chicken yard egg white emulsion with table salt and silver nitrate bound the photographic chemicals to the paper effectively and cheaply. It was the first commercial process for producing multiple high quality photographic prints from a single negative. It leveled the photography playing field for the first time. It meant the medium was available for anyone to use; anyone could be a photographer. Moreover, it meant that pictures (portraits) were, for the first time, available to persons of ordinary means. Most of the photographs made in the 19th century were Albumen Prints. It remained the most viable and popular printing process for about 40 years. Albumen-coated paper was replaced by silver gelatin paper at the beginning of the 20th century.

A Record of China’s Changing Coastlines

In recent years many contemporary photographers have focused their work on the rapid industrialization taking place in China. We’ve seen mega cities rise and industry boom along with the population. But, in a move away from the trend, Chinese photographer Zhang Xiao turned his attention to changes to China’s coastal areas. The work, currently on view at Hong Kong’s Blind Spot Gallery, records subtle and surreal moments of life by the sea. “These scenes are true reality, though they seem to be beyond our imagination,” Xiao says.

The photographer began the series in 2009 after quitting his job as at the Chongqing Morning Post in Chongqing city, China. He was drawn to the ocean, driven to snap his shutter when confronted with scenes of change. “The coastline is the frontier of China’s reform,” he says, “but also the first area of impact from external culture and the rapid economic development.”

Xiao’s attachment to the sea was not new: he was born in the coastal city of Yantai, which boasts about 25 miles of coastline. “It’s a pity that I seldom went to the seashore during my whole childhood,” he says, “but there’s always a strong affection towards the sea that remains in the bottom of my heart.”

He plans to continue working on the project until the end of this year, following his instinctual approach to picture making: wandering the beaches, looking for scenes of daily life to reveal something about modern life in China, capturing the people who are frolicking in the surf and looking for some kind of peace, lost in the beauty of the sea.

The series Coastline is on display at Hong Kong’s Blind Spot Gallery through March 10, 2012.

Zhang Xiao is a freelance photographer based in Shandong Province, China. He is represented by Troika Editions and you can see more of his work here.

Photographer #428: Eric T. White

Eric T. White, 1982, USA, is a photographer based in New York City. When he started art school he did not have a clear idea what he should study. When Eric’s uncle died he inherited all of his cameras. This lead him to professionally persue a career in photography. He spent four years learning from photographer Christopher Griffith’s technical expertise as his first assistant. His primary focus lies on portraiture and landscape photography. He describes his work as being “about capturing fleeting moments… specific moods and feelings.” For his series National Defense, which consists of two chapters, he documented a fake arabic town in California and the border between the US and Mexico. Currently he is simultaneously working on a portrait series based on the Lower East Side, a black and white landscape series and his first book. The following images come from the series Least Likely To, Lake Harmony and National Defense.

Website: www.mrwhite.cowww.whiteblackwhite.com