Exercise 3.2: Postcard views

Brief: Gather a selection of postcards (6-12). Write a brief evaluation of the merits of the images you find. Consider whether these images bear any relation to your own experience of the places depicted in the postcard. 

Mawgan Porth, Cornwall I spent many very happy summer holidays in Cornwall. Mawgan Porth (above) was a regular destination. The postcard shows an idealised beach holiday, with families sat together in an almost orderly fashion. There are no tantrums from upset toddlers or footballs getting kicked onto sunbathers. The sea is relatively calm and the weather Mediterranean-like. However, annual vacations to Cornwall would have to include wet weather alternatives to the beach. Clouds drifting across from the Atlantic would often bring rain. The postcard above is what my lasting impression of the beach will always be like, however in reality this was not always the case.

Mawgan Porth, Cornwall

I spent many very happy summer holidays in Cornwall. Mawgan Porth (above) was a regular destination. The postcard shows an idealised beach holiday, with families sat together in an almost orderly fashion. There are no tantrums from upset toddlers or footballs getting kicked onto sunbathers. The sea is relatively calm and the weather Mediterranean-like. However, annual vacations to Cornwall would have to include wet weather alternatives to the beach. Clouds drifting across from the Atlantic would often bring rain. The postcard above is what my lasting impression of the beach will always be like, however in reality this was not always the case.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence  This postcard shows the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It is a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. Considering this is lined with shops and art galleries, the view point doesn't really do it justice. However, the photograph is a very accurate resemblance to how I remember it, possibly because I was also able to view it from this vantage point. Other postcards of Florence include aerial views which would have been impossible for me to experience whilst I was there. 

Ponte Vecchio, Florence 

This postcard shows the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It is a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. Considering this is lined with shops and art galleries, the view point doesn't really do it justice. However, the photograph is a very accurate resemblance to how I remember it, possibly because I was also able to view it from this vantage point. Other postcards of Florence include aerial views which would have been impossible for me to experience whilst I was there. 

Norwegian Fjords Visiting the Norwegian fjords was an incredible experience. The postcard above really captures the vast scale of the towering slopes and the calm water. It was such a sublime landscape that it would be difficult to depict it in any other way. 

Norwegian Fjords

Visiting the Norwegian fjords was an incredible experience. The postcard above really captures the vast scale of the towering slopes and the calm water. It was such a sublime landscape that it would be difficult to depict it in any other way. 

Whenever you hear the name 'Cannes' you would think of red carpets and film stars. However the postcard above presents a completely different perspective. High up in the foliage, it is a view that many would be unable to achieve. I didn't venture as far inland, so this doesn't reflect my memory of the resort, with the many parasols that lined the Boulevard de la Croisette.  

Whenever you hear the name 'Cannes' you would think of red carpets and film stars. However the postcard above presents a completely different perspective. High up in the foliage, it is a view that many would be unable to achieve. I didn't venture as far inland, so this doesn't reflect my memory of the resort, with the many parasols that lined the Boulevard de la Croisette.  

This view of a regatta in Venice (above) is very reminiscent of my own experience. Being at the familiar angle of view for most tourists, this scene shows many gondolas navigating the waterways.  It is tightly framed, reflecting how busy the place is. 

This view of a regatta in Venice (above) is very reminiscent of my own experience. Being at the familiar angle of view for most tourists, this scene shows many gondolas navigating the waterways.  It is tightly framed, reflecting how busy the place is. 

This low-angle view of the Giant's Causeway is intended to concentrate the viewer's attention on the pentagonal shapes of the stones that characterise this tourist attraction. A higher angle, that is further back would reveal the true scale of this natural phenomenon. I was surprised how small this geological feature is. A tight crop gives the impression that there is a lot more to see, enticing potential tourists to visit. Sometimes it's what's not in the photograph that makes it a powerful image. 

This low-angle view of the Giant's Causeway is intended to concentrate the viewer's attention on the pentagonal shapes of the stones that characterise this tourist attraction. A higher angle, that is further back would reveal the true scale of this natural phenomenon. I was surprised how small this geological feature is. A tight crop gives the impression that there is a lot more to see, enticing potential tourists to visit. Sometimes it's what's not in the photograph that makes it a powerful image. 

...the landscape photograph implies the act of looking as a privileged observer so that, in one sense, the photographer of landscapes is always the tourist, and invariably the outsider. Francis Frith’s images of Egypt, for example, for all their concern with foreign lands, retain the perspective of an Englishman looking out over the land. Above all, landscape photography insists on the land as spectacle and involves an element of pleasure.
— Graham Clarke (1997, p. 73)

Brief: Write a brief response to Graham Clarke's comments above. Do you think it's possible not to be a 'tourist' or 'outsider' as the maker of landscape images? 

When considering Graham Clarke's statement it is worth thinking about why we take photographs of landscapes. If it is a place that we are visiting for the first time, then it is only natural to take photographs of the landscape. I would often take too many images of places, to ensure that at least one will turn out ok, especially if it's a place that I will be unlikely to return to. 

Having written his comments in 1997, Clarke was referring to a time before Google images and the Internet. Nowadays an almost limitless number of versions of famous views and landmarks can be visited, and re-visited, at the click of a button. The photographer is no-longer the privileged observer. Furthermore in the age of the selfie, it is more common than not for the photographer to put themself in the landscape, to validate their experience, which will be uploaded later to their social network - to prove 'I was there'. The photographer is very much part of the image. 

Spectacle and pleasure are also factors associated with Clarke's view of landscape photography. However, whilst the picturesque and sublime present the beauty and majesty of places, the atrocities and devastation of war is documented after the event, whereby photographers capture landscapes that contain the shrapnel and fragments of war. 

Another point worth considering is how photographer's, such as Joe Cornish, have made a very successful living photographing landscapes that they have become very familiar with. They connect with the landscape, knowing how and when to capture it in its best light. 

In conclusion, it can be assumed that the photographer is not always an outsider. Maybe Clarke should expand on what he means by 'the landscape photograph'. Is it a particular type of image, or standard of image, that he associates with this term? In 1997 Clarke's views may have had some validity, but reading it today, photographers arrive at the scene with different experiences and intentions.