“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule."
I never want to see another landscape. With the explosive growth in image capture technology and large format prints, we have become indifferent to the literal rendering of the scenery before us. Realism in photography—capturing nature exactly as it appears—may no longer be enough to feel the artistic thumbprint of the photographer. With Wendi Schneider’s images, her intervention in what we see is clear. Her images have a subdued, subtle, pastel-like palette of colors. Each image possesses a depth that carries us from the foreground to a distant horizon in a classic style reminiscent of the mid-19th century Hudson River School of painters like Thomas Cole, Frederic E. Church, and Albert Bierstadt.
Schneider layers the real and the imagined. Part of the mood she captures is created by the use of delicate paper and white gold leaf; making them more objects of art than photographic documents. This process requires the images to be small and intimate. So many landscapes are unjustifiably large-scale bold statements. Her prints invite a more intimate close-up viewing. She holds our attention by infusing a calming tone into a specific scene in which the viewer can imagine themselves wandering peacefully. Schneider varies the scenery she captures—it does not lie lifeless and flat without a point of focus. The use of luminescent light in the image appears purposeful, like a painter’s.
In “Cypress” and “Locust,” there is a lone tree rising above others, reminiscent of Asian-style prints. The light emerges from what may be a distant seascape that could indicate the end or the beginning of a day. In “Desert Mist,” we focus on cactus in the foreground with the flow of light that gently obscures the slightly visible mountain background, suggesting the coming heat of the day. In “Sentinel,” a wooded urban landscape becomes the backdrop for the simplicity of viewing a small, yet clearly evident lone bird on a branch. We then descend into the coolness of evening with “Twilight.” The reflection of a tree on the water’s surface, with a hint of pond lilies, on the blue-toned shimmering water’s surface gives a sense of the approaching nightfall. While clearly a color photograph, the color drains to an almost monochrome image as the daylight disappears, not unlike Steichen’s “The Pond Moonrise.” A walk through Wendi Schneider’s landscapes becomes a journey well-rewarded.
—Geoffrey C. Koslov