Monday, April 13, 2009

Truth and Landscape - Week 11

Robert Adams begins his essay Truth and Landscape with a description of how when travelers reach the foothills west of Denver they often stop to be photographed against the Great Plains or Continental Divide, an act that is characteristic of the "fondness that Americans traditionally have shown of their geography." Adams goes on to assert that this affection for the land may be ending, which he suggests is evident in the architecture of buildings which offer few views of the outdoors. The designers of these buildings say the reasoning for this is because it protects office furnishings from the sun, adds retail display space, and makes possible uniform lighting, however Adams questions this reasoning. Adam suggests that maybe the reason for this is because "scenic grandeur is today sometimes painful." I found this statement very compelling because it is not that we no longer have affection for the landscape, as it is hypothesized that we have a strong desire for nature, but rather that it is our imposition on the landscape that has caused our lack of affection.  The view of the landscape is not the beautiful and wild place that we perceive it to be, but rather it is scattered with liter and human impositions. Adam asserts, "Unspoiled places sadden us because they are, in an important sense no longer true," he then raises the question - "Is it possible for art to be more than lies? 

The photograph on top is of the litter that is scattered around the viewing platform at Niagara Falls, the image on the bottom is a "typical" view of the grandeur of Niagara Falls, Does one of these images hold more truth than the other? What is truth in photography? Does truth exist?

I don't think I have ever heard anyone question the truth of a landscape picture, because it is as "the name implies a record of place." Adams states that landscape pictures can offer us three verties: geography, autobiography, and metaphor. I think that what we often forget when we look at landscape photography is that there is always a subjective aspect to it, and it is this subjectivity or the hand of the photographer that makes the view more compelling. This made me think of the discussion we had in class week about Subhankar Banerjee's loon photographs and what makes his images art when similar images depicted in national geographic are not seen as art. What makes Banerjee's photographs move out of the national geographic realm is that he is not just a distant observer his photographs combine geography, autobiography, and metaphor to reveal his hand. I think this is the one thing that we forgot when viewing landscape photographs is that they are highly constructed just like all photographs. 

By simply placing a white backdrop behind a tree Myoung Ho Lee raises  questions of representation, truth, landscape and art that are discussed in this weeks articles. Does it take placing a white backdrop behind a tree to expose the subjectivity of the artist? 


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