Landscape Libellus


     Here twelve photographs of the same location are presented.  Each photograph was created in the golden hour of dusk from the same vantage point at the ruins of Sutro Baths.  Care was taken to create a sense of the untouched remote allowing for an illusion the ideal.
    Standing in line to photograph created a distinct a sense of unease in me.  Before me often stood a fellow out for a fun who had come to the spot to make a snapshot of the evening light.  With the rise of digital photography with automatic modes both on and off camera the frequency of getting tolerable images has increased. This blurs the already difficult line of where art begins in photography. Often enough when you attend shows of landscape work you hear the dreaded derision: "I can shoot something like this if I wanted.”  As a result, the ubiquity of the camera threatens me emotionally.  It is not their presence that bothers me, but the threat that their presence poses to my identity as an artist.  Anyone can be a photographer.
    As a landscape photographer, though at times it may not be apparent to all, I have a point of view that I am seeking to portray.  Western expansion, manifest destiny, and pioneerism all were challenges presented by the places to those passing through them. They existed and to a certain extent still exist as the testing ground for aspects of the American Spirit.  In my own unceasing restlessness with the mundane and the destruction of what it means to be masculine in our culture I seek to rediscover the landscape that defined a previous generation.
    This landscape must be an ideal in both time and place.  This is not to say that delightful cumulus clouds lit into colorful brilliance by the setting sun is required, but rather often the opposite.  A sunset is often just a moment of aesthetic beauty while a storm is a moment of challenge.  The unmarred landscape represents the challenge of the frontier and calls out to the restless.  A broken hill or mountain rising up through the frame is the unknown calling to the viewer to walk into the image and strive onward.  The unconquered mountains and the unknown frontier were to the west for Americans and consequently most of my imagery faces west. Moving west feels as though you are going somewhere new instead of returning back to where you came from.  Similarly north in the fiction is often untamed and unexplored.  These directions represent challenges; the north as a testing ground with harsh winters and the west as measure of determination to reach a promised land.
    Because the desire for the ideal demands unseen and unused natural beauty I am further bothered by the ubiquity of the camera.  Each photograph captures and tames the land a little more.  The scene becomes less esoteric.  No matter how determined you are and how much the scene is changed by a moment this is true.  Landscape photography is becoming dangerously repetitious.  This more than apathy from the art community and the passive unknowing attack of the snap shooter is greatest challenge facing landscape photographers.  As the talented, or at least the competent, of us increase in number, it becomes harder for us to differentiate from one another.