“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
At times, when I come home with a picture like this, I again realize how insufficient the division of photography into genres is. Sure, the waterfall is part of a landscape – which is not shown here. And sure, the photo shows something in nature – but is that what it is about? Of course, part of the problem lies in the rather artificial boundary we draw between nature and ourselves. We don’t call street photography wildlife art even though there usually appear a lot of animal creatures (of the species Homo sapiens and Canis familiaris) in it. In a way, I think nature photography is a genre in which “things merge into one” as Maclean writes. Let me explain.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
From “Invictus” by William Ernest Henly, 1875
When I took this picture I was sitting out on the cliffs in dense fog. The morning was chilly and the silence complete. The fog was isolating miniatures out of the larger landscape, like this life buoy sitting atop a sea of frozen waves of rock.
All cultures have their persisting narratives. These can be historical events, legends and myths or all three together. Cesar’s death, the siege of Troy, the Arthur legends and the stories from scripture are such examples in the West. Together they form an important part of the cultural package that is forwarded from generation to generation. Even if we don’t always realize it, they are a part of us. Any meaningful dialog between people requires that the respective narratives are recognized and hopefully even understood.
These narratives often pop-up as recurring themes in the arts whereby they are transformed and sometimes used as commentary to current events. One such theme in East Asia is the Eight Views. In strange ways I have been stumbling over this theme from time to time and it is one that touches me. Let me explain…
One can read from time to time that photography nowadays is an online medium, something to be produced and consumed while staying in the digital domain. And, yes, certainly many if not most photographs today go from a phone to social media never to leave the world of bits and data. Then, there are artists who specifically produce work that needs presentation on screens, like the animated genre-busting video- /photographs of Yang Yongliang.
Still, I think, living with art has its own value. But how do you hang digital files on your wall? At least for now digital photo frames don’t quite cut the mustard. Let me explain – and welcome to Dinosaurilandia…
Since its inception, photography has been associated with the notion of realism. We even coined a word, “photorealistic”, for it. And even though we know (or should know) better, we cling to the idea that photographs basically are “true to nature”.
Manipulation, however, has been part of the photography tool set from the beginning. Already 19th century photographers replaced unpleasant skies. Photography has also followed almost all trends in art from impressionism, to modernism and abstract art. The whole point of these styles and movements was to present a modified experience of reality. And until we have free roaming drones only guided by artificial intelligence, every camera is placed and pointed by someone. Every photograph has a point of view, which robs it of its objectivity and makes it a form of expression.