Posted in 12 Origins of the picturesque, Coursework

Exercise 3.1: Reflecting on the picturesque

Write a short reflective account of your own views on the picturesque (around 300 words). Consider how the concept of the picturesque has influenced your own ideas about landscape art, and in particular your ideas about what constitutes an effective or successful landscape photography.


Deeper images make us think but do they make us go wow? 

Right away my thoughts are controversial to this course, because I believe in the power and beauty of the picturesque. When I began this course, my idea of a beautiful landscape, was exactly that! Mountains fading into mist over a raging sea, a forest glittering in golden hour with a stream capturing the imagination and the light. These are the images that fill our dreams, the places we seek out purely for that connection to the sublime, for that moment when you gaze upon the view and you feel your heart in your chest, you’ve never felt so alive, you don’t know how you can keep all the emotion of the moment, that I think is why we turn to photography. It may be just two dimensional image but it brings back that cocktail of emotions and adrenaline we felt at the time. I have accepted that the course does not want images of stunning sky scapes and jaw dropping views, they want deeper, grittier emotion filled images and whilst I appreciate those emotional images, and indeed love the stories and their depth, my idea of the picturesque is still resolutely of the beautiful world around us; the world is beautiful! From the most stunning landscapes, to the wild Edgelands. Yet I challenge my thoughts as I write as I don’t see the edgelands as picturesque, I see they can be beautiful but picturesque conjures images of breath taking views to be framed, appreciated and treasured do emotional images capture that? Would you want them on your wall?

Yet, a photographer is an artist who creates their own mark and I agree with Jesse Alexander (Perspectives on Place) that the majority of picturesque photos do not have the artists signature, there’s not neccesssariy anything that makes the photo resolutely theirs. Whereas deep impact images do have the artists trademark, they are unique and that is beautiful. When I began this course I would shoot instinctively but with the aim of capturing beautiful vistas of the landscape that reflected it like a mirror. At first I felt slightly defensive, wanting to capture beautiful images but when I relented and shot for the course I found myself shooting for myself, capturing images with dark, underlying themes, with stories and messages, I am referring to my arboreal photos. Through them I’ve explored my own relationship with nature and the trees.

The picturesque is elite, that is clear to see. It is the image professional photographers and tourists alike aim to capture. Whilst based on a physically stunning landscape that exits, there is perhaps a tendency to airbrush over the unsightly details, such as the litter in the cornfield of the graffiti on the monument and I would agree that gives a slightly fantasty depiction to the viewer.

What the pictuesque makes up for in its unrivalled beauty it lacks in its emotion. If both descriptions were compared to books I can only see the picturesque as a beautiful coffee table book, the beauty so powerful it is bursting at the seam. Yet the deeper images could be in the form of anything, a mystery novel, an autobiography, a thriller, a romance, they could create their own new genre.

In conclusion My thoughts are that the picturesque should be allowed to be seen as a positive in photography, on a parallel level to deeper images. They balance each other out. Without one perhaps it would become static, if it was all picturesque there would be no emotion, if there was only emotion then we would crave photos to purely enjoy.