Influences

16Jul10

In this post I’d like to mention a few of the artistic influences that I draw inspiration from. The first two are appropriately called walking artists and they do indeed walk all over the world. They use photography as a medium to communicate their art in conceptual form, not strictly as the art itself. The third one you might call a boating artist because his art requires him to go to the ends of the Earth, in most cases only reachable (or sometimes not) by boat.

Richard Long and Hamish Fulton

Richard Long and Hamish Fulton are walking artists, and their photography is an outcome of the direct experience of long walks through countrysides. Both have traveled the world, and they document their walking journeys through photographs, typography, line drawings and notations and measurements. Richard Long will also sometimes manipulate the environment by building rock sculptures or draw lines in the ground. This land art (he hates that term, so thus the term walking artist) is very interesting to me – piles and lines of rocks and dirt – what great fun!

These two walking artists are always on the move. That does not necessarily mean anything in particular, but I’m curious how this factors into their role as an influence on my work. I’m sure that if I could I would be more on the move. Ah well, when retirement comes I’ll grab my walking stick and camera and venture forth to document what I see.

Thomas Joshua Cooper

Thomas Joshua Cooper knows exactly what he wants and he’s willing to go anywhere to get it. He is famous for his arduous journeys to the ends of the Earth, and when he gets there he may only make a single exposure. There are a few places that he has tried to get to without success and he lists these in the back of his books and the reasons why – hurricane, govt did not grant permission, military interference. He is known for asking one captain to venture beyond the safe limits of his boat’s Lloyds of London insurance coverage.

His pictures are all B&W, generally stark, and often have a dreamy, ethereal quality to them that balances both dark and light elements. Many of them look like they could have been taken anywhere, but knowing where they are and how Cooper got there infuses them with more drama and emotion, even perhaps fear knowing that he was standing at the world’s edge. I return again and again to his books. Someday, I would love to see the prints.

Interestingly I just read an essay from a book called The Pleasure of Good Photographs and the author, Gerry Badger, describes how Cooper was influenced by the work of Long and Fulton. It allowed him to stay true to his vision by framing it in a different context and thus remain relevant in the art world of the time. In the 1970s documentary photography was considered a more serious artform and more in demand than the ethereal style of Cooper. but by framing his photographs as documentation of his journeys to remote lands they remained relevant in the art market that was more interested in documentary work.



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