What does the term ‘landscape’ mean to me?
I am a middle-aged British white male, so I imagine my preconceptions are predictable. When I think of landscape, I see a traditional representation of Britain. Perhaps not so romanticised as John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ but nevertheless a clichéd pictorial view of this country.
Lush Costwold’s valleys, quaint Cornish fishing harbours, majestic Scottish mountains. Wild seascapes, dramatic skies, and hanging mist. The blue hour, the golden hour, saturated colours.
All very predictable. And not interesting to me at all.
But thinking more deeply about the British landscape angers me. I could split some of what I have unthinkingly described above into two categories; publicly owned landscape and privately owned landscape. My feelings towards those categories could not be more different.
The private ownership of large swathes of this country evokes feelings of anger in me. The words I would use are privilege, inheritance, exclusion, polarisation, class systems, birthrights, inequality, perpetuation, (hidden) history, ignorance, unfairness, abuse, suppression.
So why am I doing a course called Landscape, Place and Environment? Well, landscape photography is not something I’ve done before. As a genre, it demands technical rigour and will support my practical photographic development. It gets me out of the house after n months of lockdown. The other HE5 courses that interested me were people-based and in a continuing period of lockdown, just seemed too problematic.
For me, the dominant issues in 2020 were Covid, the increased focus (for me) on racism and anti-racism after the killing of George Floyd. Having become aware of UCL’s work on the Slave Compensation Commission records, I am interested in landscape art from a political and racial perspective.