When Martin Trailer from APA National asked me to write for this month’s newsletter, he said, “The theme is landscapes” – “Hmmmm,” I said, “Landscapes, eh? What on earth (no pun intended!) shall I write about?” Immediately, two things sprung to mind. First of all I thought of the obvious meaning and “landscape” photography. If you look the word up in the dictionary, the word landscape is “a picture representing a view of natural inland scenery.” Not to be confused with “seascape” for obvious reasons! And second, I thought of landscape in a more metaphorical sense – more on that later.
Landscape photography is a genre that seems timeless and tireless. Painters were painting landscapes in the world of fine art long before photographers began photographing them. I read online that, “landscape as a subject matter was probably followed immediately after the portrait.” Think about it, when we print a page or a photograph horizontally, we call it “landscape” and when we print something vertically, we call it “portrait.” So we see landscape as something ‘wide’ as opposed to something ‘deep’ or ‘long’ – interesting. When we think of “landscape” photography, who immediately comes to mind? Ansell Adams, of course. But what about William Henry Jackson, who was a painter, a photographer and the great-great nephew of the man who inspired America’s national symbol “Uncle Sam!” Who knew?
Landscapes are a form of “escape” – the letters are right there in the word itself. Photography is all about voyaging us into another world and taking us on a visual journey. And who can deny the power of a stunning scenic image that transports us somewhere else, magical and masterful. From the concrete jungles to the wide, open plains. For the city-dweller, that transportation seems even more precious, especially if you grew up in the countryside (like me) and then found yourself unexpectedly living in a dense metropolis like New York City!
One of my current, consulting clients, Barry Steven Greff, just so happens to be a photographer of land and seascapes. For him, when he shoots a landscape, he is looking to “tell a story” as opposed to just “taking a picture of…” He looks for that particular something within the landscape that speaks to him. He said, “I am looking visually to bring someone into the image. If my picture is hanging on a wall, then I want someone to stop and look at it.” I have several clients who shoot landscapes; some of them call it their “personal” work, some license them for stock whereas Barry, for instance, is selling his landscapes as “fine art.”
Art buyers, editors and anyone involved with purchasing photography will often be interested in seeing your “personal” work. It gives the viewer another side of you, adding a different perspective, more intimate and telling. In some cases, it is the “personal” work that lands you the job. And, in other cases, it is the “landscape” work that lands you an advertising campaign – a campaign, which might not even be a landscape shot, but might be a car ad, for example. It has happened. If you shoot cars, you might want to show your landscapes as well.
Another client of mine, Steve Brickles, wanted to include some of his landscapes and personal work from Brazil along with his fashion and beauty images. So we slid in a few that worked next to the fashion and introduced another side to him. He too pursues his landscape work as “fine art” but we wanted the buyers and the editors to see some of that work. Jeremy Beeton has some wonderful landscapes or locations in his image library so we dedicated an entire section on his website to just those.
The second thing that sprung to mind with the word “landscapes” was more metaphorical. I had an image of the “landscape of our business” across which we have to travel. The landscape will vary in terrain, with some environments rugged and cruel, and others more gentle and friendly. No matter how arid, cultivated or barren, we must navigate the landscape. When we are born, we each are given a “map” of our life to follow, and it is our job to figure that map out and search for the treasures that lie within.
How does this apply to photography? No matter where you are in your career, or what career path you may choose, be sure to appreciate the landscape, no matter how difficult it may be at times. It’s all about your attitude – as with everything in life. And a positive attitude, no matter how “hard the business may be” is what will see us through. I ran into Michael Ash on the street the other day and what I love about Michael and have always admired is his passion and his positive attitude. He’s not thinking about the recession, he’s reinventing himself again with a new group of talent, pounding the pavements, seeing people in person and booking jobs.
We are currently living in a political landscape that has been reduced to a stinking swamp. The financial giants climbed to the top of their monetary mountains and left the rest of us to rot down below in the ditches. A month from now we will have a new President, and he will be taking us on a journey through some mighty interesting and challenging scenery! So grab your wellies, your camera and your hiking boots everyone and don’t forget to vote!
Louisa J. Curtis
P.O. Box 123, Village Station
New York, NY 10014