“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 picture of black and white landscapes. Landscapes traditionally depict physical elements that, as viewers, we have seen before, whether in real life, in a painting, or a photograph. I think about the grandiose images by Ansel Adams and the enormity of the spaces he photographed, and the use of light and contrast represented in the photographs by Paul Strand and Edward Weston. I have seen black and white landscapes and photographers who represent those same sensibilities.
I recently reviewed Dana Fritz’s project, Views Removed. At first glance the images have recognizable elements of the landscape, but they question our traditional understanding of pictorial space. I was immediately taken by the rich tonal values and the quietness of the spaces she creates. These photographs are landscapes, but not in the formal sense. As she described her process of photographing parts of the landscape, I was transfixed by the immense negative space and found myself creating my own constructed landscape. The image “Japanese Black Pine Glacier” does just that with the small sliver of white in the rocks that draws my eye in. While this type of construction can sometimes feel forced, Dana is able to create a seamless connection—one that has a subtle tension while breaking away from our ideals of the traditional landscape.
The more I stared into these constructed landscapes, the more I saw. Visually, I was able to create a sense of depth. The silver gelatin prints are beautifully made and speak to that tradition of black and white photography, but in a more contemporary way. Each image creates a connection and viewpoint that does not exist in reality. These images invite the viewer to question his or her own sense of space.