Northern Ireland Landscape Fine Art Photographer
When I say I’m not a landscape photographer, I’m trying to differentiate what can be currently perceived as ‘landscape’ photography with what I actually do. There are many ‘landscape’ photographers around with websites, blogs etc and most conform to a certain technical aspect of photography. A lot of well executed technical photographs, long slow exposures of sky or sea or both, heavily manipulated (i.e. photoshopped) with surreal type effects. Back in the old days this type of photography was known as ‘chocolate box’ type photography, i.e. the type of landscapes you would usually see as part of chocolate box packaging.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with it and back in the days the license fee for a photo used on a chocolate box would be very high indeed. Its not the type of landscape photography I do though. Its all shot to a formula, with long tripod exposures, use of high density or neutral density filters to darken the skies or lengthen the exposure for milky clouds or seas or lakes or rivers or, well anything that moves. Its then heavily processed and uploaded to various internet sites at 500 pixels in size. They can range from technically brilliant to well lets just say a lot of things can look good at 500 pixels but you wouldn’t hang them on your wall.
When I teach photography, a lot of the times I would spend teaching or more specifically un-teaching students about this type of photography. Yes its nice to look at but a photograph should mean something. Let me say that again, a photograph should mean something. This is what differentiates a photographer from a photo taker.
I generally get very little out of a technically excellent image. That’s a bit of a surprise coming from someone with engineering degrees but as part of the learning progression, once you have got to grips with the technical aspects then that should be part of the repertoire, not the repertoire itself. It should be the means to an end, not the end of the journey.
Putting the camera on a tripod, putting on a grad filter, setting up a cable release, firing off a 20 second exposure and then processing it heavily in a bought plugin programme is a technical means to an end. Its not a style, its a workflow. From a technical point of view its the same type of photography regardless of what you actually point the camera at. That’s where the art and the landscape come in to it. I see the scene and how I want to photograph it then I can take numerous technical and workflow decisions and perhaps a combination or variation of them all. That’s the initial workflow then as part of the workflow I select the photo that means the most to me and then I finish it off and present it.
In teaching a lot of the questions are whats the best tripod, camera, lens, filter, cable release and software to produce landscapes and it is my job to get the student to leave that to the side and to go back down to the start of the creative workflow and to decide on what to photograph, not just in terms of milky skies and seas and sunsets and sunrises but to decide what that means to them as photographers but more importantly what it means to them as people. To develop their vision and move away from imitating images that others have imitated and so on. Its about developing your own voice as an artist and photographer.
Going back to my ‘I’m not a landscape photographer’ comment, I usually end the conversation with ‘I’m a photographer who includes landscapes in my work’.
Of course what resonates with me as a person may not resonate with others and down through the years it is amazing what resonates with people and why. Ive then tried to incorporate those stories into how I view and treat those photos in particular and use that to influence how I take future photos. That’s the great thing about having a track record with dealing with clients and art buyers is that continual feedback loop and being able to draw on the stories and influences of others.
The reason for this blog post is that Ive recently decided to convert my original website Joe Fox www.joe-fox.co.uk into a website dedicated to my landscape and fine art work.
Ive always sold some of my images as prints and canvases and the like but its not until now that I would consider having a large enough body of work (selected from my 45000 archive) to present a selection on a separate site.
Most of the images are black and white, heavily influenced by my old black and white arts photography. I used to shoot an old type of film called Delta 3200 with grain the size of golfballs that could give a real heavy atmosphere to photos. Ive developed a digital workflow process that re-creates that feeling and produced a selection of my images with this style of treatment.
Ive also put together a curated collection, this is a selection of images with a colour only treatment in a limited print run in limited sizes. These are the images that have a particular story to them and all have a particular meaning both to me and in some cases other people as well.
Part of the process in putting the site together was to also produce my bio and artist statement, that focusses the mind on not necessarily what type of photography I do but the type of person I am and how I would like to both present the world and present to the world. The artist statement is something I see as a crucial reflective process and for me at least it should also be iterative. It should be taking what I do now, where I want to go with my long term projects (both professional and personal) and where I see myself on my journey or if indeed I need to take a separate course or indeed restart the journey.
As a photographer I like to deal with reality and my particular view of that reality. I saw some landscape photos recently that were of nice locations around Northern Ireland but the sky was common to them all. Photographically there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, the photographer is not passing this off as reality, putting in a stock milky way over a NI scene is creating a digital composite image, its creating their own vision and view of the scene whereas I take a different approach. I like to portray the scene as how I witnessed it but also how the scene made me feel.
I once had a student email saying they would be late with an assignment because they weren’t feeling great and the weather was poor. I said to them that that was a great combination to go out there and create images rather than take photos. Its ok to be glum and produce miserable looking photos if that’s the way you feel and those photos said more about who they were and the place they were in in their lift than some milky seascape at dawn some bright clear morning.
I always give the example of the New York skyline photo I have hanging in my living room (header image for this post). I had a photographer friend print it for me and they said it was too dark, I gave it to the framer who said it was too dark. Most of the scene was silhouetted with only a slight glimmer from the side of the buildings in the setting sun. Black and white it was very dark but just with that faint glimmer. Going back to my story I had been standing at the top of the Empire State building for 2 hours in sub zero temperatures in January getting a range of photos of the skyline. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, was busting for a pee and it was a year and a half since Id had three operations on my right leg and it was killing me. With that explanation, overly dark with just a glimmer of hope summed up my mood perfectly and it remains one of my favourite photos for all those reasons. It resonates with me and whilst other people may not like it (Ive never offered that particular print for sale, its a one off for me) it sums up what landscape and fine art photography is for me, something that reaches off the wall and grabs you every time you look at it.
It takes a lot for someone to purchase landscape and fine art photography and its that reaching out and touching, the resonance and the feelings it engenders that make people invest in art. Its not about selling a piece of paper or a frame, its about creating and maintaining feelings, memories and reaching out and touching on a personal level.
Not all of my photos will do this but some will and on the site I invite people to email me about the story of the photo, its background, its provenance, my way of seeing it.
My way of seeing (my radharc in Irish) was one of my drivers for creating my long term Radharc Images project and documenting Ireland.
I enjoy documenting the landscape and the human impact on it and my home country, Ireland, has a Landscape which has almost totally been transformed by Man, from the original sparsely inhabited forest covered island to the Ireland we see today. This fascinates me and I am a great student of Irish myth, folklore, legend and history. My Landscape photography reflects this and I seek out these influences daily. This is a continual process and my project will never be finished as it will change constantly and the points in time I capture may change regularly (in say urban landscapes) or may not change for hundreds and thousands of years (Historical sites). My view on them and the prevailing conditions at the time will also influence the outcome. My moods and outlook will also influence how I both take the image and how I treat it in post production. These may be complementary or indeed contradictory, that iterative process with the image is ongoing.
I might return to New York and I may stand in the same spot, with the same equipment, with the same technique but the photo will be entirely different.
I made the decision to widen my collection to beyond our own shores. I have traveled from the Arctic to the Antarctic and from the deserts of Africa to the rainforest of Brazil. The natural world gives me energy and I try to document the fleeting nature of our influence and the non-fleeting impact of our influence on it.
The new site contains links to a 3rd party print supplier for a number of markets and as the site matures I will add other galleries and collections. The collections offered through this supplier represent a small amount of my work and I can also be emailed for a tailored edit of any of the photos to the clients specifications. I can also search both the online archive at Radharc Images or my offline collection for something specific. At times only an email or actual conversation can get right to the heart and soul of a photo. Through conversations I have developed some beautiful images, not just for their aesthetic content but because of the influence of those conversations. What they mean to people and why someone has reached out and shared their story with me and how we have developed their own personal version of my photograph.
That’s why I say I’m not a landscape photographer, it means so much more to me than that.
Joe Fox – Belfast Northern Ireland Fine Art Photographer
more ireland photographs here
more travel and transport stock photography here
more daily life stock pics here
more conceptual stock photographs here