1. Project 1: Thinking about landscape

Perhaps more than any other visual art approach, landscape is beset with traditions, conventions and preconceptions. Within specifically western cultures, populations at large have very particular ideas about what may or may not be considered a piece of ‘landscape art’. These ideas include what might constitute ‘suitable’ subject matter, technical aspects (canvas ratio and orientation, compositional depth, etc.), and where we might expect to encounter images of the landscape. Consider why you enrolled on this particular course. Was it because you wanted to learn how to make ‘better’ landscape photographs and had a clear idea of the kind of imagery you aspired to create? Perhaps you thought this course would provide opportunities to get out and about, away from the computer, enjoying some fresh air? Or maybe the genre, as you presently appreciate it, doesn’t particularly inspire you but you wanted to challenge yourself?

Part One explores some of the traditional conventions within landscape art, and, in particular, some of the technical aspects. Although this course encourages you to develop a more critical approach to landscape practice, however you choose to work, you should adopt a rigorous approach to developing your practical and research skills, and demand of yourself the highest technical standards you can manage. This level of commitment is reflected in the practice of the photographers you’ll encounter throughout the course.

Exercise 1: Preconceptions

This first exercise is notionally very simple: write 300 words that explore what the term ‘landscape’ means to you.

What does it immediately evoke?

What sort of images and ideas come to mind?

Are there certain sorts of landscapes that you have a preference for?

Which landscapes do you feel an urge to photograph?

Post the results on your blog and come back to them when you’ve completed the course, and reflect on whether what you’ve written still holds true. Consider what might have influenced your current understanding of landscape, place and environment. Also, write a few lines on why you chose to study this course and what you hope to learn from it.

The purpose of this activity is to get you thinking about traditions and conventions within landscape practice, and encourage you to consider why (and indeed whether) they exist. It will also serve as an interesting reference point when you come to the end of the course.