Visit a random landscape photographer’s website and the chances are that somewhere the photographer will make the claim that he or she is trying to evoke the emotions in the viewer that were felt at the time of taking the picture. Whilst you can’t really argue with what a person might feel, it does strike me that the emotions expressed by the associated images are generally of a very similar nature – usually in the direction of awe, wonderment, elation. Now we are all different and, presumably, feel different things when confronted by a landscape so how come so many photographers seek to express the same limited range of emotions? Where’s rage, disappointment, humour, sadness, fear, etc., etc.? Aren’t these also valid emotions?
I do wonder if perhaps people are expressing what they think they are ‘supposed’ to feel rather than their actual emotions. I get angry if I see litter in a natural environment, for example. Sometimes I feel frustration if the weather conditions are uncooperative or maybe my mood might be affected by other things occurring in my life or by certain unexpressed needs or even, subconsciously, by childhood memories.
Take the above image. On one level it’s about abstract geometry (this was uppermost in my mind as I was composing it – I was struck by how the tree-trunk seemed to mirror and connect with the lines of the rock strata from certain angles) but dig a little deeper and the tranquil greens and reflected blues of the sky convey the overwhelming sense of peace and security that I find comes from being in a forest – especially on a hot summer’s day! And the little indentation in the rock, lower right, even puts me in mind of how I liked to explore such natural cavities as a child so there’s a sense of nostalgia, too.
Of course, none of this was consciously occupying my thoughts as I concentrated on technicalities but I certainly feel it informed my choice of subject and how I approached it. This is why I never make the claim that I seek to reproduce my emotions in an image because I actually don’t. It just sort of happens when I let the environment I find myself in and the whims of my subconscious dictate my subject-matter.