What Is Landscape Photography?
It may feel like a silly question, but the definition of landscape photography is, like all forms of art, open to personal interpretation. What constitutes landscape photography to one individual may in fact been seen as something entirely different from another persons perspective.
When looking at the definition of landscape photography it would make sense to start with the ‘dictionary meaning’, the most simple and direct interpretation of what landscape photography is.
Lets Ask Wikipedia
According to Wikipedia “Landscape photography shows spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. Landscape photographs typically capture the presence of nature but can also focus on man-made features or disturbances of landscapes.”
Lets take a look at that statement for a moment. Diving a little deeper we can see that the meaning really isn’t that simple or direct.
When we start deconstructing phrases within that statement the meaning of landscape photography can actually start to become quite vast. “spaces within the world”. In essence everything that exists forms some kind of space within the world. The wikipedia definition of landscape photography also includes ‘microscopic’ objects. Lets say we were to capture images of the microscopic veins of a leaf, would this constitute landscape photography? How about microscopic images of cells within our own blood? This would fit the definition of landscape photography right?
If we step back a notch and start to look at what is directly visible in the world around us, buildings, mountains, rivers and trees we might start to gain on oversight as to what most people consider to be the landscape. Even so, not everybody would consider all elements present within our environment to fall into the realm of landscape photography. As an example, some may argue that a photograph of a building is in fact an architectural photograph. Are they correct? Yes. But a photograph of a building can also be considered a landscape photograph.
Landscape Photography. It's About Intent
To me, landscape photography is about intent, about how you personally interpret an object.
As a landscape photographer most of what I photograph falls into the realm of traditional landscape photography. That is, large views of the scenery which surrounds me. Sunsets over the ocean, trees in a field, a stream meandering through a forest. But, I have photographed objects which at first I was reticent to call landscape photography.
One such example is a close up I did of the contours of a persons hips. The image was backlight, emphasising the curves. The single light source was visible in the shot. If you asked most people what the image was of they would have said it was a black and white photograph of sun setting over sand dunes. It had that feel. And it had it for a reason. That’s because I approached the subject as a landscape photographer, with the vision of creating a ‘landscape photograph’ out of my subject. My intention was to create a landscape photograph and that’s what I got. (Unfortunately the image is long lost so I can’t show you)
So, is this photo indeed a landscape photograph? For a while I battled the notion of calling it so, but soon came to the conclusion that my intention was to capture the human body as a landscape, so it was indeed my interpretation of landscape photography. Going back to the Wikipedia definition of landscape photography it is indeed capturing the presence of nature (a human) along with a space within the world.
So Landscape Photography can be anything?
There’s no doubt, most people will agree that what really constitutes a landscape photograph is an image of a typical landscape, incorporating elements of nature and the natural environment, as it could be seen by the human eye if one were standing looking at the scene. This is what most people will think of when they think of landscape photography. Some will allow forms of digital manipulation within their definition whilst others will consider that once an image is manipulated it no longer resembles what can be seen with the human eye, and thus is no longer a ‘landscape’.
The point is, at the end of the day the definition of landscape photography is actually open to interpretation. It is up to each of us to define what we consider landscape photography to be and to remain open to other peoples vision and ideas.