Previously on ...It has already been pointed out that photography does not have, per se, a strong theoretical support. Its enough to get to a library and compare the number of technical or practical books against the more abstract ones, and when you find one that in some ways declares this intention most of the times it is very down to the earth to depressing levels, with some notable exceptions as the ones form Stephen Shore or Robert Adams or Andreas Feininger. Its a fact that only in recent times Academy decided that it was worth the effort to plunge in, whatever the reasons. Perhaps its an effect of those little digital cameras every body is handling, even there. The net increase in apparently well exposed pictures may be somewhat reassuring. However the contents are generally more about historical traits of photography when not extra photographic as in the case of what is to be considered documentation. Problem is that photography is not a theoretical or abstract domain. Photography is a practice. An it is three times a practice. One for the making one for the use and one for the fruition. Its also a fact that Academy never had a benevolent look at practice. But we need theories. At least to have some guidance in the teaching/learning (self). Its easy to see that in my point there is a strong doubt about the value of Photography schools. One may be tempted to resort to how the education of young painters was conducted at the times of Raffaello, where the solution to introduce someone to a successful imaging practice was a bit rude to say the least. Unfortunately in our modern times we have some limitations about the degree to which a student may be beaten. So what to do ? With the series on Geography -- I'm slowly going backward retagging where needed -- as much as in my photographic drifts/dérives, I'm trying to have a look at what is or has been produced in the visual neighbourhood trying to preserve a photographer's approach, one based on framed portions of the whole. Just the idea so to say. In other times, and with a somewhat more optimistic evaluation of the time needed, I've taken a different approach, more oriented to a deep comprehension. It may be useful but it takes time and, as in my case, if time amounts to years the difficulty lies more in the choice of the branches to follow. Its a bet anyway. Not always successful. This wont make nobody a better photographer, or at least is a path that does not give some instant "tip". I know.
'Unreal, unreal!' ghost helmsmen screamJust an update on the Journal of Visual Culture I have linked in a previous post. The Journal seems to be "reborn again" you will find it here.
and fall in through the sky,
not breaking through my seagull shrieks... Van Der Graaf Generator - A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers
Doctor Livingstone, I presumeI'm closing on Geography by now. Leaving you with a last contribution. While in the US the main activity in the second half of the Nineteenth Century was to go West in Europe it was Africa to attract the attention of a hungry set of several different subjects, in both cases it is interesting how the icon of the "virgin and untouched soils" became a common trait. In this work you'll find a deep analysis of how the whole image of the famous Doctor was set up including photography and, more important, the newly, for the times, introduced techniques for large scale image replication. The linked Google snippet,for the purpose to understand the formation of an anticipated landscape, is , in my opinion, more than enough unless you are interested in the specific question. More or less each European Country had its own paper built colonial Heroes starting with Cristoforo Colombo till the utterly pathetic Italian ones of the last minute. Interestingly Italy contributed to the general imagery adding some songs.
Geography and Landscape Photography. UpdatesI'm keeping on in this drift into Landscape forming disciplines. It may not be totally clear in which way an abstract theory may contribute its own in the shaping of the every day landscape. This excerpt from "Critical Geographies" (I'm publishing it also for the most lazy among you readers :) gives an example of expectations about the land, still to colonize, that in some ways happened.
``It is, perhaps, in those international negotiations and agreements which concern the political status of great countries, and determine their boundaries and the respective limits of their responsibilities, that the danger of inaccurate geographical knowledge is greatest, and the results of it are the most disastrous. Truly, this period in our history has been well defined as the boundary-making era. Whether we turn to Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, such an endless vista of political geography arises before us, such a vast area of land and sea to be explored and developed; such a vision of great burdens for the white man to take up in far-off regions, dim and indefinite as yet; that it can surely be only by the grace of Providence that we shall finally emerge from the struggle to rearrange the world‟s partitioning, without some deadly contest with others whose interests in these new arrangements are hardly less than our own. And I may, perhaps, be permitted to say, that just as the Providence of battles usually favors the biggest battalions, so it is likely that the widest geographical knowledge will prove the best safeguard against misunderstandings, and will at once dispose of such false estimates of the value of portions of the world‟s surface here and there as have occasionally brought England perilously close to the dividing line between peace and war. By geographical knowledge I do not mean simply that knowledge of the Earth‟s surface which we gain by surveying it. I mean also a knowledge of those ordinary laws of nature which decide the configuration of mountains and the flow of rivers, where certain influences must inevitably lead to certain conditions (Holdich, 1899, 466-7). `` From Critical Geographies pp. 144 ''The New Geography and the New Imperialism: 1870-1918 `` Brian Hudson 1972.Expectations, projections and desires operate constantly in image making. In some ways we get to a place with a set of already thought out pictures, we anticipate what we will see. The fundamentalist school of pre visualization in some ways, and in some extremes, made the anticipation a key point in landscape making. An interesting experience of how such anticipation was abruptly shut down is reported by Robert Adams about his work. To close the post here is a link to an interesting, but I still have to digg in deeper, online journal: Invisible Culture. I've got there looking for "post colonial geography" that is the object of the latest issue.
On Geography and Landscape photography again.In the previous post I've pointed out some connections Landscape Photography has with Geography, or better Humanist Geography. In a lot of cases on each side the work is in making "borders", what is in and what is out. However Geography now relies on a gigantic amount of data, and with the Internet the sources grew exponentially. While in the case of Critical Geography we are more on the side of the paradigmatic change (or several paradigmatic changes competing or collaborating) in the case of NeoGeography we land on a totally different view, that of the fun in making new maps. It is an other side, that of the quantities, but this time not in scarce ratio but overly abundant, something to play with if you like. While I was there I've made some searches on issuu and I've found this text, more on the paradigmatic side, that has a nice delineation of Geography's spaces at the beginning: "Is Geography Destiny". The title itself is full of "cosmic" interest :-D
Situationist International: SI. I've read the SI manifesto 30 years ago while trying to find a way out from the heavy, for excessive ideology, Seventies. Recently I've stumbled upon them while reading an online, and free, book: Critical Geography. The book collects several articles some of which of historical importance, among them: Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography written by Guy Debord (one of the most visible actors in SI). Geography is a sibling of Landscape Photography, they share the same object: surfaces. Photography itself is all about surfaces. Both had their rise in the second half of the nineteenth century and both had a dramatic impact on the way we shaped the world in which we live. Critical Geography tries to introduce the idea that geography may be studied along different, either quantitative either qualitative, points of view as in the case of "Anti colonialist" Geography or Feminist Geography, see this entry in Wikipedia for a panoramic view.