Alternative tips for landscape photography look at the world differently

The traditional images that are typical of the British countryside are only half the truth, claims Tracy Calder. Suppose we adopt a different perspective that allows us to see beauty in the darkest parts of the country. She looks at the Book This Pleasant Land: New Photography of the British Landscape. In addition, she offers tips for a new method of landscape photography.

The British Landscape

In his excellent novel In his wonderful book, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, Bill Bryson writes about his experience in The British landscape. “For months, the sky became a gloomy, unchanging grey. There were times when it rained, but most of the time, it wasn’t very interesting, a place without shadows. The feeling was that of living in Tupperware.’

Anybody who has lived on the North Atlantic island is familiar with the “deep grey’ Bryson refers to. While we can imagine dramatic skies and vibrant sunsets, the majority of the time, we do our work under a dreary blanket of white. Photographers have to tackle this “Tupperware” effect by using an ND gradient in the hope of bringing out some dramatic images. However, the scenic pictures from the British countryside are only a small portion of the story.

In actuality, the reality is that humans have created the British countryside for decades: quarries leave marks on hills, fences cross fields, and roads cut through the forest. Writer and artist Rosalind Jana agrees. “In its wilder outskirts, we may think it is undiscovered; however, our footprints – imagined and real that is all over it.’

Jana wrote the text for This Pleasant Land: New Photography of the British Landscape (published by Hoxton Mini Press). The book is comprised of works that create a post-millennium picture of Britain where the ‘Tupperware’ skies aren’t just accepted but actively sought after. This collection of photography that is fine art reveals the gorgeous, the depressing, as well as the inaccessible and the insignificant”, says Jana.

It’s a look at the undiscovered corners, ranging from the simple hedgerow to WWII pillboxes and changing floods. It’s clear that the land is constantly in change – people come and go, boundaries are drawn and revised, and tides eat away at the edges of the land. The photographers who were chosen for this book share their interpretations of their landscapes.

Every image is a reflection of their memories, connections or interests, and sometimes, their preferences. The chocolate box perspective of the landscape does not attract them. Instead, they pose concerns about the way we interact with it, take care of it to work on it, and how we preserve and even destroy it, Jana says. Jana.

Fingerprints of man

Every photographer has a story to tell. Projects include autobiographical stories to the political and environmental. What connects the photographers is a desire to immerse themselves in the natural world. To hear the cries of gulls as they flit on fields plowed by the wind, to taste salt in your breath as you near the shore, and to feel the snow beneath your feet while you walk towards the mountain bothy.

These are essential visceral experiences. A few of these views could be considered beautiful in the classical sense.

The impact of the military

If you’ve ever seen the MOD red flag while walking – signaling potential dangers to life – you might be wondering how military operations influence the British landscape. Certain military sites are able to be habitats for biodiversity. However, other sites are temporary structures abandoned to deteriorate. The photographer Richard Brine used a combination of satellite images and local gossip to identify some of Britain’s pillboxes that are 6,000 in number (there were once 30,000).

The concrete structures were constructed in WWII to protect Britain. However, according to Jana she says, ‘Most of them are now home to sheep (or teenaged fugitive teens seeking a place to smoke).’ Brine has an experience in architecture photography. His obsession with a precise approach (and the usage of cameras with large format) is reflected in the pillbox project. The walls may be covered with ivy and moss. However, his compositions are characterized by clear spaces and lines.

Melanie Friend is another photographer who studies the way war is interwoven into the British landscape. In her book for 2020, The Plain, she returned excursions to the chalky grassland of Salisbury Plain, a preparation site for war in the year 1897. In this photograph, Friend captured the haunting presence of old tanks, broken telephones, and striking warning signs. The work she contributed to in This Pleasant Land has a similar, eerie atmosphere. The project involved her traveling throughout the United States to attend air shows that Jana calls the ‘respectable side of war.’

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