A portrait of the... landscape (Which=What) (2)

A portrait of the... landscape (Which=What) (2)

Although it may seem superfluous, it is useful (interesting?) to know that….it’s easy to say LANDSCAPE. In fact, I would like to “propose” at least 3 (2+1) variations of this widely used genre. A sort of elementary guidebook for the “scaper”, so that we may understand both why and what we are doing...the first is the bare landscape, very difficult to identify and photograph. We can define it as such when the LANDSCAPE, in fact, is the True Subject of the image. Nothing else. Think about it and then you will realize that it’s no walk in the park.


And to complicate matters, know that this “genre” has also been given a precise “academic” definition: The landscape is an actual entity, consisting of a set of elements as well as the interactions that bind them to one another. Furthermore, these elements and their connections are all within the landscape itself, the latter being a whole with respect to which there are no existing external objects to which it refers (Environment Landscape Territory – Uni. of Cagliari). We must also take into consideration the genre that more than ever is passed off for Landscape, which would be the ENVIORNMETAL PHOTOGRAPH. Highly recommended even by various manuals and tutorials it calls for a precise subject, better if in a close-up or background shot, and “inserted” IN THE Landscape. And “…always better with a Wide Angle” (????!!!??). Geez, and who knows why.


This “macdonalized” (eh eh) genre, that “mechanically” interprets the Divine Being instead of trying to understand its Soul (each with its own eyes, heart and culture), IT also has its own unequivocal definition. The environment is defined by the relationship a subject has with a part of the landscape, whose elements are a part of such relationships. The environment is an interactive entity, reliant on the subject of which it refers (Uni. of Cagliari). I must say that not even the Gospel, with all due respect, is more thorough. It’s clear that all of this is for that person who, always, considers Photography as a commitment of passion, culture and enjoyment. This is not for someone who visits cities, art locations and stupendous sites, while walking (or driving) with a piece of pizza in one hand and a smartphone in the other. Let’s always remember that we are talking about PHOTOGRAPHY. Not photographs.


You don’t need an instructions manual when you are simply taking photographs without realizing what you are photographing. And since we have spoken about 2 genres +1, its fair to discuss a mixed form of Landscape & Environment that must not remain unheard: THE URBAN LANDSCAPE. The Urban Landscape is equivalent to a physical map. The first reveals human characteristics of the surface (political boundaries, cities, streets, railways, etc.), and the second reveals the physical and natural characteristics of the surface in question (rivers, lakes, mountains, etc…)


For this genre, it is even more important to correctly provide a detailed discription. In fact, it must not be confused with street photography (we will talk about at another time) which, everything considered, has a fairly recent history. An “acceptable” definition for Urban Landscape could be a risky comparison with The Territory: “…the land becomes territory when it presents itself as a vehicle for communication, production, exchanges, cooperation and when it is a means and object for work” (G. Dematteis, Uni. of Turin, 1985).


But it is essential to understand that this is a very young genre. We see it in Italy in the beginning of the 80s with the genius and hand of Gabriele Basilico, inspired by an exhibit by Numi Tutelari on this genre, and Bernd e Hilla Becher, father and mother of the Becher-Schule, that have made an art of the urban landscape. So for those interested in approaching “SCAPER” Photography with interest and passion, we have plotted the coordinates for the knowledge of this genre and its forms. As you know, knowledge is power.


Forgive me for this romantic/parochial finale: We, in Tuscany, along with the millions of visitors that come to visit us, are extremely fortunate to live in a “territory” where everywhere you look, you not only find something “photographable” but, above all, “photographic” (do you remember?). Whether it be the Landscape, Environment or Urban Landscape, even to a nonreligious man like me, they bring to mind the verses of Metastasio (1698-1782).


Everywhere I turn,

Mighty God I see you: In your works

I admire you,

I identify you in myself.

The earth, the sea, the spheres

Speak of your power:

You are everywhere; and we

All live in you.


A fine example of a ‘700 Landscape photo, don’t you think? 

Till next time. Now we know WHY and WHAT (Which?), the HOW will be e stroll in the park. Believe me.


Yours truly,

Paperon de Paperoni (PdP)