I love Eliot Porter’s work very much.
For me, he is as this book introduces him ‘an artist of uncommon perception’. I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve been thinking lately that most landscape photography goes no further than a website for the majority of photographers out there. In some ways, it is unfortunate to think that many of us spend $$$$ on cameras that can record great tonality and resolution, only for everything we do, to be reduced down to a jpeg that is displayed on Flickr or facebook or our own personal websites.
I bring this up, because some images work better than others on certain mediums, and I will stick my neck out here and say that often images with high impact, lots of contrast and a degree of ‘boldness’ to them are more readily embraced on the web, than those that have more subtle tone to them. Books, as I’ve been saying for a while, are able to convey the finesse of an image that may often be lost on the web.
We’re living in an age where the mediums that are most prevalent, dictate that most of the images we consume are bold.
But bold is boring.
As a new photographer, many of us are enraptured by high contrast and it’s one of the first things we go in search of. Likewise too, the iconic landscape. We’re not looking for subtlety at all. As our tastes and eye develop, we do start to slowly appreciate what is maybe less obvious but just as valid. Subtlety of tone, and also, subtlety of subject too.
With this in mind, i’ve really enjoyed looking at Eliot Porter’s ‘In the Realm of Nature‘. In it, I’m presented with beautiful compositions of anonymous landscapes, ones where I do not recognise the landscape because the usual suspects are not present. Instead, I’m given frames filled with foliage which on the surface could seem extremely busy, but when looked at a bit further, I discover there is simplicity conveyed by the use of dense nature. I quickly stopped looking for that iconic mountain or classic viewpoint, and instead, I just began to feel myself enjoying nature for what it is – simple beauty.
Eliot Porter did not make dramatic photographs in the way we have become accustomed to. Missing is the hard contrasts, the moody landscape or the overdone iconic place. Instead, we are presented with very natural, relaxed compositions with a care towards the macro. With a care towards nature.
It’s of no surprise to me that he was a supporter of the preservation of the natural landscape, but what does surprise me is the sense of rejection he had from those around him who did not consider colour photography an art form. He was an early adopter of colour, and in this book, it’s a very joyous thing to be able to see the colours of film emulsions that I’m noticing are no longer so present in our contemporary visual dictionary.
For me, this book is a welcome reprieve from the overly dramatic. Perhaps I see things in his work, that I feel I haven’t explored so much in my own.
He seems accepting of the landscape he encounters during a casual walk and reminds me, that I don’t have to go far to create beautiful images if I so chose to.