Origins of landscape as a concept

Late but nevertheless there , i recently started reading a book by John Berger titled ``On looking''. In the first chapter he enters in questions concerning the immanence of certain relation we, as humans, have established with the animals, among them looking and being looked at.

I am using here a concept of immanence borrowed from Jan Baudrillard in ``L'illusion de la fin''.

Later, thinking about landscape, it came to me that a long time agoa human also happened to be a prey for other animals, see here .
Say till the end of 1700 AC, in Europe, later in America, earlier in Japan and China (could be i am not sure of it).

The concept of landscape, ``paesaggio'' in Italian came to western culture in between 800 AC and 1200 AC. Caution here since the roots are different, the concept come to England from Holland and not directly from Italy. The beginnings in painting is conventionally located in Siena see here. A nice landscape was one well ordered and well connected to the city. In those times a city with such a landscape was considered powerful, consider the problem to nourish large armies.

Now suppose you were a traveler approaching one of those city . At the moment you entered the landscape of the city you were a bit more safer. No more wolves considering you the main entry at least. We've lost such feelings: fear and relief looking (or scanning) the landscape (fear for the opposite of nice landscape, negative we could say). Those feelings could have survived somewhere.

All thinkings are under ``artistic licence'' as usual.


Painting, miniatures and photography

As i said in a previous post there is a lot to investigate in ancient painting and mostly in what is called "ars illuminandi".
The reason are interesting. First some facts.

All miniaturists where also alchemist. They had to prepare colors, the paper, the brushes et al. by themselves.

A funny and recurring theme is that of the production of simile gold. Simile gold was used for all the imaging going on till renaissance. It is not astounding if some of the alchemist were also at the search of the real gold formula.

Alchemy had some interesting
heuristic methods lost with the advent of the more precise, and somewhat more successful in term of outcome, science. The main source of knowledge came form patient the observation of reality, looking for causal connection of simply some kind of analogy or similitude or even bizarre theory. Reality, the world, was mostly looked at. It was the scientist who changed the game. Instead of looking and contemplating more aggressive ways of testing and representing were found. Science with its experiments and models was based upon the idea that not always what we see is how the things work, instead each sense could be fouled.

Today there are at least three professional categories still cultivating such approach to the world. Tibetan monks, homeopathist and guess who ? photographers. Could photography, with its necessary interaction with reality, be the heir of alchemy as a collection of euristic methods based on looking ?

An interesting, albeit difficult, reading is the "de clarea" a latin fragment form XI century all about miniature and "ars illuminandi" tecniques.

For an idea about alchemy see here for a version (do not know how authorittive) of the "corpus hermeticum" attributed to Ermete Trismegisto (a mithical figure),

I am a bit imprecise here for several reasons. The first is that there is almost no written or provable evidence in the above considerations. Second, as i already said i am working under "artistic" licence, where coherence is the last of the desirable properties in forging new concepts from old ones.


history of painting, miniatures

Getting back to find a beginning of the concept of landscape i got in some kind of detour. The techniques of the miniaturist or it is better to say "illuminati" from "Arte Illuminandi" (supposed from "alluminandi" which has its meaning in the preparation of the basis for manuscript decoration).

To have a general idea go here.

Unfortunately i could not find the most interesting one "De arte illuminandi" online. But i found an interesting translation from Italian to English of "Trattato della pittura di Cennino Cennini da Colle di Valdelsa". The amazing thing is the amount of technical data and detail on how to make colors and other components. They had to do everything by themselves. The interesting thing is that miniaturist and later painters also had to know some notions of alchemy. But on this more in a next post.

The English one.
The Italian one is here.

As a photographer there are lot of entry points. The most interesting ones are those about luminance and color related to body parts. The reading takes 2 to 3 hours (skip freely to get down to the minimum).



a very nice contribution

While all the links in this post are pretty useful and entertaining the number 2 is invaluable (scroll down for the English version).

Doing a media jump may i suggest an archaeological background noise while you are at it.

Have a nice weekend.

Photo environment: species at risk

"Those of you who are still (maybe always) rank amateurs and dilettantes, whether by happenstance or intent, I mean you no disrespect. I think making photographs for any reason whatsoever is a fine and dandy thing. It's only that you're not the folks I write for, primarily. No hard feelings nor disrespect intended, okay?".
Just stay away from those nice gorilla females and everything will be fine.

Last statement added by me (sorry could not resist) the rest comes from here.

Come on, what does it mean being serious (or pro) in photography ? that you have to smile to your customer if he tells you that the model (or the spouse) looks a bit fat while actually being a whale ? Or pretend to live on the fine prints you are selling at such low prices that even an hamster could not be fed by ? Or that you have to make a bank loan for a, "pro", camera while you amateur dentists can buy three of them by the monthly income ?

I find this offensive. First because a lot of photographers who did great works where amateurs or still are. Second, yes i live well being a computer scientist while studying and trying an awful lot at photography and, by the way, serious computer scientists can give you a nice match in understanding what is going on in a digital darkroom (but i suppose that is not pro since there are no pro computers).

Fortunately the forest in which you live does not present great interests and maybe it does not even exist. But be aware that species evolution is not always for the best.

May i suggest that cooperation is better than exclusion when the matter gets harder or more complex to understand ?



"May i use a simile, the simile of a tree ? The artist has studied
this world of variety and has, we may suppose, unobtruvesly found
his way in it. His sense of direction has brought order into the
passing stream of image and experience. This sens of direction in
nature and life, this branching and spreading array, i shall
compare with the root of the tree.

From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him,
flows to his eye.

Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree.

Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow, he moulds his
vision into his work.

As, in full view of the world, the crown of the tree unfolds and
spreads in time and space, so with his work.

Nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of
its root. between above and below can be no mirrored reflection.
It is obvious that different functions expanding in different
elements must produce vital divergences.
And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree,
he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him
from the depths.

He neither serves nor rules he transmits.

His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his
own. He is merely a channel"

From "On Modern Art" Paul Klee 1924

I found this used for 7$. Invaluable.


Second house. White sky

This is the second picture i took as a study in white skyes rendering and use in composition a la "new topographers"

second house: a house were you rarely go. The second house is a typical way in which we italians waste the land. These areas were almost wild 40 years ago. Generally owned by small store owners they were built by a constructor who was also a local alderman. Some of these second houses were also built without clearance and regard for the presence of water, electricity and so. Every 5 years or less they were condoned by the national administration in charge. The cost of the condones were high since the local administration had to provide the above mentioned unplanned infrastructures. The infrastructures were provided by the usual local alderman who also owned a private small building firm. From the point of view of human geography they provide an interesting object of study due to the presence of decorative elements coming from people with a really low education and as such well exposed to television and others media suggestion, generally the builder shared the same low level of education. Some of these houses where also built by placing first a caravan and progressively raised condone by condone.



In times of bad weather it is easy to ruminate about the "meaning of life". This year, god knows the exact meteorological mix provoking it, it seems that the question is about photography being or not art, and recursively what kind of photography is art and what not (fine art. fine fine art. fine fine fine art....).

The best one i saw is the one saying that photography is not art cause it takes only a day to master the technical questions and opla you are a photographer.

here is a pointer.

Following the path here we have good news for the ones willing to become a painter, mastering paint takes even less. Buy a canvas some colors and a brush and you are there, total time an hour plus the time to get to the store and it is far less expensive too. You will not need any skill too. You are already at it, according to Leonardo Da Vinci (Trattato della Pittura/Treatise on Painting) , it suffices to observe, and make some abstractions upon, those fine motifs you leave on the toilet paper.

Those considerations reminds me some subtle disquisitions you can read about which is the most important form of art taking place among baroque art experts in the XVII and XVIII century. Futility rules anytime.

Everybody has the art he/she deserves.

Anyway, i do not want to put my statement here, too many relativistic lectures has made me quite uncertain, i am not even sure if the question is worth considering.

But there is a thing i am certain about. In our culture (the happy fat whites one, regardless of skin color) art is also (or it has been) a way of rearranging knowledge in ways not yet considered. There's always has been, so to say, a license to connect concepts without worrying about consistence or exactness or historical/philological or scientific correctness. In this sense (and maybe only in this one) i want to claim for me the right/plesure of being an artist.


Second house. White sky

This is the first picture i am posting. In this blog i will only post pictures from microproject and not strictly related with the main projects i am working on. A microproject is for me something you can exaust in a day or two. It needs not to be about a specific subject or location. In this case i take advantage of the bad weather to experiment with white skies the way "new topographers" and "architecture landscape" photographers are doing.


why am i doing this

Recent discussion in several landscape photography blogs made me think about the reasons why one may want to cultivate a blog.

A formal proposition could go this way: i am starting a blog cause it is the less expensive way to let others know about my thinking.

Fact is that from the start of my being on internet, and several years on usenet before, i had received so many contributions in terms of techniques, ideas and so forth. I never reputed to have something useful to return in exchange till now.


do we really need to dig so deeply in landscape photography

Responding to such a question involves some considerations about doing photography. In respect to landscape we, photographers of all kind, have a big responsibility, our pictures, whatever the audience, will became, in case success and relatively to the audience, icons for the place we have chosen as subject.

A landscape picture is an artifact derived from a relation between an observer (you) and the chosen (by you) portion of space. I still need to dig more here. There are more precise definitions in the second of my former posts.

Landscape painting and poetry too have some responsibility. For example in the case of Venice and Vicenza both arts where used to depict a rural way of life far from real, made of simplicity, pastoral sets and well ordered vegetation. Reality was that the same who paid for artists were also robbing the land from the peasants through wear loan and taxes.

Arts were used as cover ups of an otherwise shameful action.

Who is to blame ? if we europeans have an idea of America made of skyscrapers , red rocks and gasoline services ?

Landscape photography is connected in natural ways to landscape imaging in general. For several years (at least 80), and today for less explicit reasons, the only missing thing was color (at least in fine art). Now in digital times color is not a trouble anymore, we can have plenty of control too.

So it is also time to reconnect some missing links and become aware of the necessity to carefully study why we are still here depicting land, nature, houses, cities almost the same way humanity started doing 1100 years ago, in the strict sens of landscape. Humankind started painting the world they saw a lot much before. Getting back that lot of time
is not a mean to rediscover some ancient technique.

But back to the question. I am sure that all this studying is not necessary in most cases. One can continue to take his own sunsets without bothering about. Better one can take pictures, fine ones or even new ones without a minimal idea of the history of art.

But if you are in search of reasons why here is a good place to start, i am not sending you to amazon to buy, but you can use several words as strings in a google search.

I started this study last year due to a project i am still working on and as usual i got lost.

I know that these are times in which the attention is on expression more than on
impression but photography has to do with reality. has it ?


Previsualizing the future landscape

According to ordinary geographers we can do some kind of prevision of the composition of the near future (and not so near) landscape by consulting distribution and franchising manuals regarding the exterior look a specific business must have. An interesting source that can give you some insight in the landscape you will be shooting at in the near future is here. A bit more savage here i am still not sure that the latter is for serious. As a reference in landscape thinking see also.
If you are fluent in reading italian language you can also have a look here.


Well, i am starting here. First time is usually full of promises. So i wont get into.

At first my main interest was to find some kind of a guide on how to make good pictures, or better,
appreciated ones, but after a while i got it clear that there was not such a thing as a guide, instead there was a pretty confused path to a more relativistic vision: art is what somebody finds acceptable of being art. There are lots of somebodies.

A couple of days ago i had a brief exchange in the "color theory" mailing list about the history of setting the white and the black point as start in image correction. As usual Dan Margulis is an intriguing thinker. Digital color con be built up from the ground for cheap.

So i found that there is a quite interesting link between modern photography an ancient miniature making. First the sizes. Miniatures are at most the same size (and some time bigger) of the photos you can find on the web. There always had been, for obvious reasons, small photo makers,customers and lovers. But the web has a lot of somebodies and numbers sometimes rule, certainly in stating what is to be considered art. Miniature making, along with jewel making are the arts that conserved most of the practices coming from Roman, Greek and Egyptian culture for the benefit of middle age artists.

Getting back to the subject. A thing i consider important is the way in which those ancient thoughts have contributed to the formation of "canoni" that are present anywhere in image making. Consider for example the trees. Trees are most of the times thought as green even if they are so only for half time of the year (well not all), the same applies to skies (well once maybe they were thought as golden) always blue, except for "new topographers" who seems to find it white. Getting to landscape (or paesaggio as we say in Italy). Landscape if a conceptual artifact, mostly a mere verbal convention. History of the concept dates back its roots to three Italian areas: Florence, Venice and Milan. Milan could be the first since it is the historically first in massive land making/alteration for agricultural (pre capitalistic) purposes. A nice landscape was one well cultivated and well connected to the city.

Order is quite an important rule today. Almost every photo howto to has something to say about finding/imposing some kind of order on the subject.