What kind of photographer am I?
I have been calling myself a Landscape photographer, but my subjects (or the primary focal points) are not natural. They are always man-made and usually banal, anonymous objects or human traces. My photographs often appear to use the Landscape as a mere backdrop, as a setting that defines a mood and a scale for the object whilst conveying its relative power or vulnerability in that landscape. Is this Landscape photography?
I used to call myself a “Found Still Life” photographer when my attention was on the backrooms and archives of museums and galleries. At that time, the room was the landscape, but the focus was on the objects stored there. Then, as now, my images were designed to reveal the quirky juxtapositions between objects and backgrounds or any unusual interplay of shapes and colours.
My intentions have always been to create enigmatic arrangements and juxtapositions to encourage the viewer to find narratives and look for metaphors. This is similar to the ways 16th century Dutch Still Life paintings are read but without having the well-established meanings assigned to each object by that genre.
Today my locations have changed. Instead of the small landscape of rooms in buildings I go into sparsely populated landscapes to find my compositions. The land, sea and sky have become my equivalent of the Dutch painters’ dining tables, curtains, and windows but it is Still Life, just the same.
My current objective
A landscape photographer makes both conscious and intuitive decisions when choosing a location, the subject matter, timing, and the final composition of their images. More than just documenting the scene they are attempting to capture and to communicate their own responses to the landscape and conditions, to the viewer. When such decisions are conscious the photographer should be aware of both what they are doing and why.
However, some elements of the decision making will be intuitive or instinctive, resulting from their experiences, their education, culture or maybe just habit. When decisions are driven by intuition, rather than being consciously made, the photographer may not even be able to articulate why the scene justified the making of an image. Perhaps it just felt right but, if so, then why?
The objective of my photography is to understand how the photographer recognises there is an opportunity for making a photograph?
Neil’s Recent Posts
I found a derelict cottage on the island of Scalpay and, like many other photographers who travel to the Outer Hebrides, I was drawn to make images of it – but why? Of course, there are multiple reasons, from pure documentation of the scene through to voyeuristic attempts to spy into someone else’s former life. Personally, I am not…
I visited Skaw, Unst on 3 separate days in 2018. This paper looks at the different compositions taken across the 3 days looking at why I have classified them as Successful or Unsuccessful. It is a technique for trying to try and understand why I become motivated to press the shutter. Starting with my definition of what makes a…
I developed the concept of Power/Subordination as a description for a key property (or output) of my images. It describes the relationship of power implicit in one or more image elements towards other elements (or the viewer) making them appear subordinate or somehow weaker. This feature is present in 27% of my “top 50” images and 22% of the…
I have noticed that some of my images, whilst superficially very similar, have quite different origins for their compositions. For example, these images, were both taken at Skaw on Unst on the same day: The next diagrammatic version explains what I perceived more clearly. The following image was conceived quite differently to either of the ones discussed above. I…
© Neil McCoubrey 2018