Exercise 3.1: Reflecting on the picturesque

Brief: Write a short reflective account of your own views on the picturesque.

As I am almost half way through this course, it is a good opportunity for reflecting on what I have learnt so far. So, have my views changed about landscape photography and what do I understand as being 'picturesque'.

I am much more aware of the possibility of photographing the least obvious places, such as the edgelands. The places that pass us by, without leaving a lasting impression or making us yearn to return there. Sublime landscapes can instill a sense of excitement or trepidation. Landscapes can also have aesthetical qualities which make them beautiful.  

Therefore a picturesque landscape exists somewhere between beauty and sublime. It may consist of curved rolling hills, softly focused, underneath a hazy sunset. Or it might portray majestic mountain tops, which tower up into a hostile sky. The term 'picturesque' is derived from the Italian 'pittoresco', which translates as 'in the manner of a painter'. A picturesque landscape is a view that is pleasing on the eye. It would not look out of place adorning the wall of an art gallery or a home. These views often include rural or pastoral themes, depoliticising the countryside.  

Looking back at my first two landscape assignments, I can see that I am drawn to the countryside when photographing this genre. My idea of the picturesque would feature elements of the natural environment, with some thought to composition and the use of natural light. In addition to this, I would also tend to orientate my camera so that the scene is framed in a 'landscape' view. Maybe this is because the open countryside lends itself to this viewpoint, allowing sufficient space to fit everything in. Furthermore, I have always sent and received postcards that are in landscape.  

Would I consider the city to be picturesque? The high-rise buildings and tightly packed shops make it difficult to frame an image in a landscape orientation, without cutting something out. The bright lights and intimidating skyscrapers would be more akin to the sublime. Therefore I wouldn't consider urban views as picturesque. I would also find it difficult to disassociate urban landscapes from street photography.  

In conclusion,  an effective or successful landscape photograph would make someone want to visit the place to see it for themselves, or that it accurately depicts their previous visit to that place.