From the Road: an exploration of the contemporary landscape photograph

Above Rob Carter, Travelling Still, Tulip Fields, Holland, XIV, 2006, C-type hand print mounted to Diasec, 41 x 41 in / 104 x 104 cm, Edition of 3. (©Rob Carter/Courtesy of Eleven, London).

By Wayne Ford.

‘Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer,‘ wrote Ansel Adams (1902-1984), who went on to suggest it was also frequently ‘the supreme disappointment,’ yet the landscape continues to offer artists of every sphere with ‘endless possibilities,’ and forms one of the great reoccurring themes of photographic art, like that of the nude or the portrait.

In From the Road, at London’s Eleven Gallery, we experience the work of eleven very distinct photographers: Rob Carter, Harry Cory Wright, Rick Giles, Ken Griffiths, Paul Hill, Jane Hilton, Josef Hoflehner, Peter Newman, Sam Pelly, Wim Wenders and David Yarrow, each of whom present their own interpretations and experience of the landscape — from the manmade environments of our cities, to the unbridles terrain of the arid desert or icy cold tundra — and have mastered a genre in which Adams frequently found disappointment.

Travelling Still is an ongoing series of photographs I've been working on over the last five years,’ says Rob Carter, who works with a revolving lens camera to create his images entirely in camera. As the name of this series suggests, he strives to create the feeling and emotions of movement within the singular frame, and the experience of travelling. Marked by the powerful use of of colour and abstraction, Carter stretches the ‘moment’ both literally — in that the camera shutter is held open — and visually, as the details of his subject blur’s horizontally across the picture’s surface.

Above Harry Cory Wright, City of London, 2010, C print, 58 x 71 in / 148 x 180 cm, Edition of 3. (©Harry Cory Wright/Courtesy of Eleven, London).

In contrast to the abstract images of Carter, and reflecting the varying and diverse techniques employed by each artist in From the Road; Harry Cory Wright approaches his subject in what could be consider a more traditional form. Working with a large-format camera and exclusively in colour, he depicts the landscape that he see’s before him in intricate detail, in his series, Place in Mind, which reflects upon what he calls, ‘our perception of place, space and how we hold ourselves within it.’ Whilst Rick Giles, an artist attuned to the environment in which he lives and works, explores man’s ‘absorbing relationship with nature,’ in works that represent a form of social documentation as he questions the physical and atmospheric changes upon the landscape.

In the work of New Zealand born Ken Griffiths, who prints using the specialised Carbo print process, we experience an immense, almost overwhelming sense of depth and clarity in his images of the American west. A theme also explored by British photographer and filmmaker Jane Hilton, who has documented many aspects of American culture — from legalised prostitution to the fast food style wedding culture of Las Vegas — over the last 20 years. Here we encounter the Nevada Desert through the windshield of a classic Mustang automobile; in the framing of the barren, mountainous landscape, she presents a portrait of a society where landscape and automobile are at one, and that brings to mind the classic road trips of Walker Evans (1903-1975) and Robert Frank.

Above Jane Hilton, Mustang Interior, Nevada Desert, 2008, C-Type hand print, 23 x 28 in / 58.5 x 71 cm, Edition of 10. (©Jane Hilton/Courtesy of Eleven, London).

Like the work of Hilton, the photographs of German born film director and photographer Wim Wenders — many of which are created during his personal travels and whilst location-scouting for his many films — are firmly routed within the documentary genre of photography, with both presenting an ‘intimate portrayal of culture as well as setting’ in their respective work.

Reflecting upon the work of Paul Hill, one of the great masters of British photography, the American artist Lewis Baltz writes, ‘Hill’s photographs position him among those land artists, from Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton to Richard Long, whose special relationship with the land lie at the heart of their aesthetic,’ an aesthetic that is represented in From the Road, by Hill’s seminal work White Peak, Dark Peak, which explores his intimate and very persona relationship with the Peak District. Like Hill, Josef Hoflehner also works in black-and-white, capturing the breathtaking beauty and stillness of Iceland. In Red Morning, 2005, the viewer experiences the captivating contrast between between land and ice, in a graphic image that reveals the ying and yang of the natural world.

Above Wim Wenders, The Black Car, Havana, 1998, Lightjet print, 41 x 95 ½ x 2 in / 103.5 x 242.2 x 5 cm, Edition 6 plus 2 artist proofs. (©Wim Wenders/Courtesy of Eleven, London).

Exploring man’s relationship to the sky, Peter Newman works with photography, sculpture, painting and video, to explore his chosen theme. ‘Gravity dictates the earth contains a buried past of dinosaurs and archeology, the surface reveals the activity of present daily life, but what is above is an empty field of possibility, a space in which to conceive and live the future,’ he says. Working with a vintage ultra wide-angle lens, that captures a 180-degree field of view, adapted to fit a state-of-the-art digital camera; Newman records the view looking upwards, from different cities around the world in his on-going series of photographs entitled Metropoly, the resulting circular prints celebrating the variety of architecture, and the character of each city.

‘At a very young age I discovered cameras; magical instruments that could capture, like a child with a butterfly net, the beauty of it all,’ writes Sam Pelly, who works with large-format Polaroid negatives in his sensitive series Into the Quiet, that is marked by a ‘haunting’ almost ‘painterly’ quality. And in a new body of work, David Yarrow, who is known for his photographs made in often distant locations, explores football pitches in remote and isolated environments.

With their varying experiences and encounters the artists in From the Road, present a very personal and evocative reflection of the landscape which they document, revealing emotions of wonderment, adventure, solitude, and above all beauty.

From the Road is at Eleven, London, until 17 March 2012.

Swiped from Wayne Fords wonderful blog here.

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