Thursday, 12 April 2012

Project 36 : defining a style

Project 36 asks us to look at photographic "Styles" and comment on four photographers work whose style is distinctive. Style being defined here as an overt characteristic of the photographers work that defines them and makes their work obvious if unlabelled.

Fay Godwin:  a self taught  landscape photographer, who through her love of walking photographed the English landscape in a conventional style using mainly a roll film camera. In simple terms her photography is "normal". It captures what was there at that time and as a result the light is unpredictable, often flat and uninteresting. What Godwin wants us to see is simple and unpretentious with no special treatment to the image. What does make her work interesting and therefore part of the Godwin style is the use of a square format. Not normally used for landscape, where the preferred aspect ratio was 5x4 (from sheet film cameras) or 3x2 (from 35mm film cameras) the square image is different but not to the extent that the viewer is struck by it (not in the same way as say a 16x9 panoramic format). Godwin's book "Land" published in 1985 is probably her best known work on landscape photography. The plates in the main show a placid approach to landscape photography using soft tone with the rural idyll as a theme, punctuated only by her personal indifference to fences, gates and land being separated by fencing and walls.

David Ward:  Ward graduated with an Hons degree in Photography in 1983 and has worked as a freelance photographer ever since.His photographs are distinctive for their graphic simplicity and technical quality. He is particularly drawn to making abstract, intimate landscape images and his work is informed and inspired by many of the great American landscape photographers of the last century. His technical ability to match form with light is sublime and the attention to the detailed position of framing is paramount in his work. In addition to his image making Ward writes prolifically about the subject and questions the intent of photographers and their work within the landscape genre.

Ansel Adams: Adams is probably the most well known of all landscape photographers. His work from within the national parks of North America are well known and highly regarded. Adams style is traditional with the emphasis on excellence in the whole process of image making. Working with large format cameras he was able to process the individual sheets of film with precision that matched the exposure and extract the maximum tonal range. The resulting prints have a resonance and vibrancy that few others could match. The subject matter is (like Godwin) simple. The grand vistas of Yosemite, the orchards of California and the lakes of Alaska are seemingly simple subjects but Adams use of light is the key to the lifting of these into another dimension. Adams was attuned to light and how it moved across and around the landscape and he developed a sense of creating the decisive moment for the image when light and form moved to create the perfect harmony.

Robert Adams: Adams (no relation to Ansel) work is factual and of the moment. His photographs of the mid west of the USA are perhaps the least "spectacular" as they include so much of what is considered ordinary, the areas of landscape that we pass by. We pass them by because they are perhaps not pretty enough to fit in what the public perception of landscape photography would be. But what these images do is they show what we are doing with the space we live in and how we make these changes to the landscape. Worn out buildings, scrub land and trailer parks are part of our landscape and need recording to explain the socio economic changes, creation of and loss of wealth and the transient nature of many of the minor features of the landscape. Some describe these images as survey photographs and they were/are of that genre. Social landscape images have narrative and this style is significantly different to those mentioned above.

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