Photo reblogged from http://www.photographyblog.com/news/landmark_the_fields_of_photography/
Given the recent inclement weather, Somerset House’s Landmark: The Fields of Photography exhibition seemed like the perfect way to ogle the countryside (living in London has clearly turned me soft, I agree).
The building is beautiful, and a perfect spot for lunch or drinks in summer, as there is a terrace overlooking the Thames. The drizzle kept us inside this time, but the café is a lot more pleasant than those of most London galleries (it also serves breakfast all day, which is definitely a plus for lazy Sundays).
Tom’s accidentally flattering photo of me. He took others, but I looked like a malevolent hamster in a wig (you know it’s a bad photo when your boyfriend offers to try again), so I’ve saved you from them.
There’s a wide range of images in the exhibition, and the pastoral certainly doesn’t take precedence (to my disappointment, I admit). A large proportion of the collected works consist of industrial landscapes, and there is also a range of subject matter from glaciers to the galaxy. Rooms are labelled Sublime, Pastoral, Witness, Landmark, Scar, Control, Datum, Delusion, Hallucination, and Reverie, which may give you an idea of what you’ll find. I’ve picked out my six favourite images, and briefly proffered my thoughts on each.
The first photo that grabbed my attention was Ilulissat Icefjord #7, from Olaf Otto Becker’s ‘Broken Line’ series. I find glaciers and ice-worlds fascinating, so this drew me instantly. There is an incredible sense of stillness and grandeur in this image, more suggestive of a palace than mere frozen water. It reminds me of Turner’s more abstract seascapes, as there are few clues for the mind to tie interpretation to, and I couldn’t help but search for caves and passages burrowed into the ice in the expectation of the fantastical that this photo inspires.
The next photo is by Daniel Beltra, and is (illuminatingly) titled Brazil #3. It depicts a finger of lush vegetation reaching out into an apparent delta of water. Logic alone reveals that it is water and not the sky that surrounds this peninsula, as the perfectly-still reflection of the clouds above lends a sense of surrealism. It brought to mind an oasis for the survivors of a flood, and suggests issues of climate change and sustainability. Tom’s first thought, however, was that it must be absolutely full of monkeys, quickly followed by a desire to introduce a giant hand to shake it, disgorging a cloud of birds and whooping primates into the stillness. You can lead the horse to the art gallery, but you can’t make it… Well, you know.
I then came across Simon Roberts’ South Downs Way, West Sussex, from his series We English. This struck me because it is a sight I often saw myself as a child, when we lived briefly in West Sussex near Ditchling. My father has an appreciation for all things flight-related, and used to drag me across the Downs so he could fly his model aeroplanes and I could read or stare at the view (otherwise known as ‘spending quality time together’). The view from these chalky heights is indeed beautiful. I remember hunting down thick gorse bushes or shallow depressions in the ground to shelter me from the constant wind, watching butterflies flutter between wild flowers, and the feel of coarse grass underfoot. The fields spread beneath you like a jigsaw puzzle, and paragliders such as those captured by Roberts utilise the updrafts and thermals that form around the Downs. The golden quality to the light and the shadows that are beginning to creep across the patchwork of fields suggest it is late afternoon, and a flurry of bright colours against rain-threatening clouds mark the presence of the gliders. It is interesting and unusual to be able to locate man in the sky in a landscape photo, as people are typically used to give a sense of scale and provide interest in such subject matter. Their fragility is illustrated here, as they resemble the butterflies that are often torn through the air by gusts of wind.
Mitch Dobrowner’s Trees-Clouds then caught my eye. I chose to take and develop my own landscape photos (with a traditional 35mm camera) for one unit of my Fine Art A Level, so appreciate how damned difficult it can be to create an effective black and white landscape. Dobrowner’s work is stunning, and technically very successful. The deep contrast between light and shade and the composition of this photo is simply very good, and worthy of study for all aspiring photographers. The tiny trees in the foreground dwarfed by the broiling storm-clouds above emphasise the sense of threat, and they are further highlighted – despite their diminutive size – by the wave of dark rain being drawn along beneath the clouds.
The penultimate image I have chosen is another Daniel Beltra photo, this one titled Oil Spill #4. After a series of brutal scenes of industry, I practically ran across the room towards this photo. It is beautiful from a distance, and this becomes troublesome but no less captivating when you realise that it depicts an oil spill. A turquoise sea with tendrils of black ink swirling through it, highlighted by coppery stains of clean-up fluid. An oil rig sits like a conch-shell on top of it all. The Wellcome Collection’s recent exhibition Death: A Self Portrait considered “whether it is possible to make aesthetically pleasing work about violent death and the damage that war does to bodies, minds and souls”, and this image does the same for the damage done to the planet.
The final photo that I wanted to share with you is Leonora Hamill’s Simone/ La Metaphysiques des Tubes, from her series Their Favourite Novels. This brought to mind Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, and the endless sleep of fairy tales. Nature surrounds and protects. Tom, however, saw the entire image as threatening; predators in the bushes, mud-monsters beneath the lilies etc. (I guess you would want him looking out for you on a camping trip, rather than the hippy floating half-naked in a pond).
The range of this exhibition allows something for everyone, and it is easy to cherry-pick your favourite photos to spend time with. It closes April 28th, 2013, so plenty of time to get down there!