Read Deborah Bright’s essay ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men’, available online. Copy this URL into your web browser:
As well as writing widely on photography, Bright is also an established practitioner. This text was written in 1985, and some of the things Bright argues for have been achieved. The text provides a contextual insight (particularly in relation to American photography) and an interesting sense of the climate from which much critical practice has emerged. Read the essay, noting key points of interest and your personal reflections in your learning log.
Hard to say what I really think for fear of being trampled by the angry masses, this essay appears to be another moan about the lack of women in photography. I really struggle with this because in my experience there are lots of women in photography in fact 4 of my top 5 favourite photographers are women and when ranked probably hold all of the top spaces. I can’t see any reason to think that gender makes any difference when it comes to skill in photography hopefully this will cease to be an argument in time as the dinosaurs cease to have an opinion that counts.
Bright starts out with the gender argument but quickly refers to the idea that landscape paintings in the 1700s and 1800s were depictions of land ownership as pointed out by John Berger created to celebrate the customer’s wealth. She makes the connection that landscape photography continues this tradition established by the earlier painters. Still, she feels that photographers have more responsibility to highlight the way the minorities are treated in these images.
Despite its cultural dominance, this is a landscape in which the major portion of the nation’s populace—its urban natives and refugees (including blacks, Latinos, queers,Jews)—finds no positive reflection but instead repression. (Bright, 1985)
She claims that landscape photography is still seen with a masculine eye:
The sorts of questions we might ask concern what ideologies landscape photographs perpetuate; in whose interests they were conceived; why we still desire to make and consume them; and why the art of landscape photography remains so singularly identified with a masculine eye.
Sorry but I just don’t identify with that statement I am struggling to work out what is intrinsically masculine about the sort of landscape images you see. I get the early images apeing the oil painters and being made to show off property but is this still happening?
She goes on to suggest that the landscape is held up as a healthy alternative to the unhealthy urban life most lead and this lead to countryside tourism, along with travel and railroads etc making this more accessible. She states that as cars became more accessible roads were engineered to funnel people into the countryside, and parking/access to the said countryside was made more available.
I did not enjoy this essay, I seem to come against this ideology a lot that there are not enough women in photography and they are in some way mistreated. While I cannot comment on the mistreatment as I am not a witness to this but have heard some disturbing stories, I do feel able to comment on women in photography as there are lots of them doing a really good job and in many cases far better than male counterparts. My true feeling is that we should not even consider gender but rather the merit of the work and that the best work should come to the fore regardless of gender.