Imagined Landscape

02-29-20 Trabuco Canyon KI6A3736

Ann Mitchell, a local friend of mine, just announced her photographic exhibit in Sacramento and discusses her imagined landscape photographs that comprise her body of work. I was very intrigued by her describing black and white landscapes in this context as being imagined and perhaps this resonated with me for a reason; I think that this describes my landscape practice as well.

In one sense an imagined landscape could imply that the resulting photograph was entirely created, aka “fake” and not real or found and that it is a composite cut and paste with photoshop or maybe a small model or a painted background created in a studio. Perhaps at one end of the scale of how someone might think of an imagined landscape.

Or that it might not really be a landscape at all, as I think of the various nude close -up studies that are ambiguous enough that you might think you are looking at flowing sand-dunes or other natural landmasses. Thus metaphoric landscapes, that are created by one’s imagination.

One aspect of Mitchell’s imagined landscapes is accomplished by her subtle abstraction using a platinum printing process that modifies the contrast, colors, textures and details of a photographic image. The resulting photographic print does not look “real” as defined by our modernistic expectations of a sharp and well delineated image, thus embodies more lyrical and poetic qualities. Her printing process of the found urban landscapes is a direct reflection her imagination and what this image should emotionally appear like.

In a broader sense, any photographer who pre-visualizes an image, is in fact imagining what the final print should look like, and probably takes steps to make this happen. We make a lot of decisions when making a photographic image; which camera and lens combination, our framing of the image, and what exposure we determine. This in combination which the realization that a photograph is a two-dimensional representation of something, thus never the thing it pro-ports, and thus all photographs can be thought of as being imagined.

Thus the photograph above created during my canyon walk yesterday is an imagined landscape in that I had pre-visualized the resulting print. I purposefully used a wide-open aperture for the shallower depth of field, focusing on the foreground bush on the left side of the frame and allowed the pathway to become softer and less defined as it meanders out of sight. I had also anticipated what this image might look like post-processing with a black & white conversion. Unless you are a dog (which makes me wonder how you are reading this) that can only see in black & white, a resulting black & white image is not natural, an abstraction of nature while a type of image that we are usually comfortable with understanding, but an entirely imagined landscape.

I think that Mitchell is really cool for stating the obvious and capturing that essence for the work she creates.


Featured photograph: Untitled (Trabuco Canyon) copyright 2020 Douglas Stockdale

Upcoming events:

Medium Photo 2020 Workshop: Developing a Creative Book workshop that I will be leading from March, 19-22, 2020, a four-day extended weekend workshop in San Diego (workshop registration is still open and some spots are still available)

Medium Photo 2020 Lecture Series, I will be giving a one-evening lecture Artist Books as Art Objects on March 20th, from 7:30 – 9pm at the You Belong Here artist venue, located at 3619 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, California 92104.

Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) Faculty Exhibition, in Los Angeles at the new LACP gallery, located at 566 Washington Blvd. The exhibition opening and reception is Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 7-10pm. The exhibition runs until May 12.


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