I have been having an ongoing conversation in an effort to understand an answer to a question, "what is landscape photography?" Asking Jay Reimer (@jayreimer) about it leads to a dialogue that is very useful, surfaces new ideas, realizations and connections. And whenever talking to Jay, I usually leave with a list of photographers and books that I need to look into.
It's a several months long conversation, and I think I started to ask the question in different forms last fall when I was taking the intermediate darkroom class. My final project was a bit of a touring survey of the desert to the east (desert), distilled into ten photographs. Something about the work says landscape to me, but topographic as well, between which I still do not adequately understand the difference.
Is there supposed to be one? Maybe my struggle to understand landscape photography is due to my notions of what it is, simply by exposure and association - I am bombarded with images with a genre label of landscape. So I am trying to remove those notions and understand what landscape and topographic photography represent to me and how I go about making it.
I have started to take the question out into the field and see what happens. Recently, I shot a collaboration (with @krennybelly) for an assignment where we continued this conversation on the nature of landscape. We intertwined the parameters of the assignment into the question, and shot a miniature series to explore the interface between creation and the man made.
We have a set of images that show the objective of the assignment (mix ambient light with strobe, no adjustments to capture), so none of them have undergone deliberate treatment for our interpretation. This image is an initial touch at the edit, but we need to complete the work collaboratively to commit to the direction to take the final images. I also need to spend time studying the histograms to improve capture, and evaluate what can be done to improve the process.
The action of the photography is how I can start to answer a question of photography. By taking this question "what is landscape photography?" into the field, we worked to approach what it was to us, not cerebrally, but in execution where our collective comprehension will come out. I still don't have an answer for myself, but I will continue to work at it through the action of photography until it starts to become clear. At least to me.