Exercise 3.1: Reflecting on the picturesque
Write a short reflective account of your own views on the picturesque (around 300 words). Consider how the concept of the picturesque has influenced your own ideas about landscape art, and in particular your ideas about what constitutes an effective or successful landscape photograph. (Alexander, p 88, 2013)
My previous thoughts about the picturesque:
Up to this point when I thought of the picturesque I thought of blue skies, green hills, clean pebble or sand beaches, sunshine or alternatively crisp snow, dark mountains and purple grey skies. I guess the picturesque is completely subjective however. I have never been a “pretty” landscape photographer; any of my traditional landscape photography would have erred towards that of the darker mood, twilights of grey black and purples with white highlights as this is what I find beauty in. I’ve never subscribed to this traditional notion of the beautiful but would probably have understood the term picturesque to have meant a “pretty” landscape rather than a more subtly beautiful landscape.
The first time I thought hard about the picturesque was during Landscape part 1 when I was searching for the meaning of beauty and the sublime, my interpretation of beauty and the sublime for that work was that beauty was something aesthetically pleasing, and the sublime, as something uncanny and not conventionally awesome. I believe that a subjective interpretation of the picturesque could incorporate both of these, something aesthetically pleasing but not necessarily conventional and possibly uncanny. The Tate gives a definition of the picturesque “The word picturesque refers to an ideal type of landscape that has an artistic appeal, in that it is beautiful but also with some elements of wildness” (Tate, 2019).
William Gilpin’s concept of the picturesque in the 1780s was associated with leisure travel and I sympathise with Fay Godwin who suggests that following on from this many picturesque postcards for tourists bear no relation to the “experience” of a place.
How the concept of the picturesque has influenced your own ideas about landscape art: I don’t believe that these concepts of the picturesque have influenced my own landscape art but yes definitely my own notion of it. Hence if asked about my own landscape photography I would often describe it as unconventional or maybe abstract.
My ideas about what constitutes an effective or successful landscape photograph: This has definitely changed as I’ve progressed on this course; my view originally would probably have been one of a typical camera club member (not that I was, but my Father was!), a picturesque view. Now my perspective is much wider, as what makes an effective landscape photograph effective is definitely subjective. In a nutshell I think that a landscape photograph is a perspective on a place and that an effective landscape photograph is a unique perspective on a place.
Alexander, J (2013) Photography 2 landscape. Open College of the arts, Barnsley.
Tate (2019) Picturesque – Art Term | Tate. At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/picturesque (Accessed on 6 April 2019)