From the comments on my assessment for IAP: “In terms of creativity, it would be good to see you take more risks with your looking, reading, thinking, reflection as well as your visual outcomes.” I decided that I would try to take more risks particularly visually and in my thinking, so rather than produce a series of “Standard” Beautiful Landscapes I wanted to do something more daring, to this end I decided to look more into the sublime and found several references in the Morley paper describing the sublime as something between pain and pleasure. Burke talked about a feeling of being out of control, Joseph Addison describes the sublime as “Something that fills the mind with an agreeable kind of horror” in an article on the Artiface I found the following quote “In regards to the Romantic view of the environment, the sublime can occur when natural grandeur overwhelms an individual to the point of causing fright or a feeling of helpless insignificance.” I, therefore, was looking for a way to demonstrate this fear, pain and pleasure referred to in a still image.
In responding to the brief I mostly ignored the beautiful as this seemed to be the standard response to the brief and to a landscape assignment, on evaluating the work of other students I felt that many of them had taken the more safe approach of the landscape photographer as can be seen in camera club competitions up and down the land, I wanted to show I could take risks and push the envelope.
In part, one much of the study focused on contemporary landscape and the way painters responded to the genre, later in part one we started to examine the meaning of the sublime, I was warned by Jane Kemp not to focus too much on the sublime, and I can see how that could be a rabbit hole as there are so many ways to read the meaning of the word, I decided to stick with Burke’s definition and try to make work that inspired the feelings he described.
In my mind, I wanted to make images that made the viewer gasp, I was thinking about that feeling you get from standing in an awe-inspiring location like the top of the Grand Canyon where the vista literally takes your breath away and makes you gasp in awe.
At first, I felt that an image taken from an elevated position such as the Grand Canyon example would be a sure way to make this happen, I considered lots of traditionally beautiful places to photograph and came up with the notion of taking them from the air with my Drone. My first experiments proved me wrong as can be seen on my blog, these images simply made the beautiful more beautiful, when they worked. Images of great distance were lovely but did not give me quite the reaction I was looking for.
I was reviewing a news article from the Daily Mail Online (not my preferred paper) reviewing what it called the best drone photos of 2015, on reflection I noticed that many of the images seemed beautiful and a few took my breath away, the ones that took my breath away were the ones that were shot straight down from above, and I found a few of my own images taken this way had a similar effect, I have previously discussed this on my blog. Drone photographers such as Januils Karolis and much of the work submitted under the Caters News Agency seemed to capture the effect I was looking for.
I set about taking images that fell into this category and quickly found that looking down from 400 feet was not enough, the images had to have more to them, a green sports field or a forest of trees did not give me the feeling of vertigo, I needed it to be busier, then I realised that the ones that really worked had elements in them that helped identify scale such as cars and buildings and these made me feel as though I was a long way up then the vertigo would kick in.
My final selection of images was driven by the ones that made me feel like I was falling into the scene, where the feeling of height was evident and where my centre of balance was over the centre of the image. I took many images and rejected all that did not fulfil my need to feel that disturbing and unnerving feeling you get from looking down from a great height.
My response to this assignment is far from the conventional and hopefully conveys my desire to take more risks with the assignments and challenge myself to make work that pushes the boundaries of the art.
Personally, I am happy that I made work that conveys that unnerving feeling I was searching for, and in tests has done so to the viewers it has been shared with, this feels like a topic that could taken much further given time, for now I am happy that I have achieved my goals for this assignment.