ESSAYS: PHOTOGRAPHY AS EXPLORATION
PHOTOGRAPHY AS EXPLORATION
It’s a commonplace in the visual arts – painting, film, drawing, photography – that the work should speak for itself. That an eloquence of image is preferable to a parallel and generally unneeded verbal explication. I agree. My goal too is that my photographs speak, clearly and simply, for themselves. But given the differing and often conflicting contexts in which images are created and viewed today, given the diversity of reasons for caring at all about photography, much less taking it seriously, I think I should say a little about my motivation and method as a photographer.
My passion is to photograph the natural world – a statement which tells everything and nothing. I’m not really interested in landscape or wildlife as such, in merely recording the obvious, the external description of the wild or natural world – but rather in the emotions, my own to start with, aroused by wild and natural places. And one emotion above all: mystery. In our over-urbanized contemporary world it already seems mysterious that the natural world has survived at all. It has of course, often threatened, often diminished but still there to delight us, to awe us, to move us by its unexpected and altogether mysterious forms. This at any rate is what I feel when I visit and explore the remaining wild landscapes of the West – I am moved not just by the beauty of these landscapes, but by their unexpected strangeness, their mystery. Photographically I’m looking for the emotional equivalent of what I feel in these rare and privileged places.
So in my work there are several parallel and simultaneous explorations – an exploration of landscape, wandering, hiking and climbing in search of hidden places, secret spots, mysterious landscapes; and simultaneously a photographic exploration of form, looking for compositions, shapes and patterns that express the emotional depth of these landscapes. For me this rules out the trophy-like collecting of beautiful images from an endless succession of landscapes – landscapes visited, shot, logged and left behind – that seems to be the modus operandi of many landscape photographers. For me, the double exploration of landscape and photography has to be one of depth, not breadth.
I am drawn back to certain landscapes again and again, at different seasons, in different weather, sometimes year after year. Always I try to follow my emotional response deeper into the heart of these special landscapes, building up image by image a multi-layered portrait of a place that moves me. Strong emotions are always multiple and complex, so it doesn’t surprise me that exploring a landscape over time yields a richer, more complex emotional vision of that place..
Inevitably, some of my most serious work takes the form of multi-projector dissolve shows, or multi-photo portfolios of certain special wild places. They become in-depth explorations of my feelings about these wild places – feelings too varied and rich to be compressed into just one image. Successful photographs of a mysterious landscape challenge me to look still deeper into that landscape, and myself. Once exposed, a color photograph is, in a sense, finished. A photographic exploration is, almost by definition, never finished.
WESTERN EYE PHOTOGRAPHY
Studio: Box 2, Crestone Colorado 81131 USA
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© 2008–2021 Linde Waidhofer.
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