[hi Sacha. I see the last entry here was at about 10:00 am - 7-12-2021. OK, you have 800 + words which is a good start, and you have provided a good overview of your practice. The text would benefit from lavish illustration:-) I'm confident that you will make a great thesis. The key is to design a plan which will maintain your interest and be productive for the work you make. We meet again in January. Between now and then I suggest you experiment further with the modes of address you outline below. Remember to look at Sonia's bibliography and look at the Non-human Photography book]
- personal diary to describe experiences while photographing
- method description of my work
(* a fictive diary of constructed landscapes?)[are a personal diary and a fictive diary the same? Please try to be more precise about the modes of address you want to use in this text, and experiment with them]
- studies on the Anthropocene
- how do (native) people see their environment? [I think this is far too general a question. Please make a more precise formulation or discard it. There is a book in the bootleg library called Indigenous Research Methods which may help you formulate a more precise approach to this]
The making of mountains: In this research project I’m making a method description of my work. Describing all steps and experiences within the making process, then the selection process and eventually the presentation process. This will help me reflecting on why I’m taking the steps that I take. It will also give more depth and inside into the experiences I have while taking my photographs.
Before I came to Piet Zwart Institute I already had a strong interest in how we, as humans, interact with the landscapes around us. I've been researching this relationship in my work for a long time now and themes as romanticism, escapism and the sublime are at the core of making it. In this introduction I’ll do a retrospect on what I made before and what I’m working on now.
About ten years ago, I made a shift in the media I used. While studying in the painting department of my Bachelor's, I started using photography. I became attracted to remote and vast landscapes, but they also urged me to manipulate them. I did that by putting a person and/or object in the landscape, to make the scene feel alienating. I wanted to play with nature as we observe it when we, for example, go for a walk in the forest. This way I showed that our recognizable environments can be transformed into a space for mysterious dreams.
The objects I used were, in contrast to the landscape, very man made. Materials like plastic sheets, balloons, pvc pipes or rope. I always tried to find a contrast as well as an agreement with the objects and the landscape. Sometimes I want to emphasize the playfulness or turn the human figure into some divine creature that has floating objects around itself. Human beings are predominant on this planet, but at the same time we are just little creatures in this massive environment.
What kind of role we take in as human beings in nature is still something I want to explore in my work. The human figure in my images is always me, because for me it’s important to really experience that particular moment within the landscape myself. It is about searching for that sublime experience. The experience that is always bound to nature and makes you feel powerful and very small at the time.
In 2020, I started doing my Master’s degree at Piet Zwart Institute. The covid-19 pandemic broke out in this year and traveling was out of the question. Under Covid restrictions, I started working in the studio to make self-constructed landscapes. I wanted to escape the reality I inhabited. Missing the possibility to go places, at first I wanted to make landscapes that look like Earth. When I was forced to cancel my trip to the Alps I started to build my own snowy mountains. Later I became interested in traveling even further and became inspired by distant expeditions and images from other planets. I started to incorporate the alien aspect in these self-constructed landscapes. Some of the images evoke uncanniness that speaks of alien landscapes, dreams of the ‘otherworldly’ and science fiction cinema. Through my miniaturisation of landscape photography, I have been able to focus on photography as image making rather than recording. Instead of capturing an image, I created an image from scratch by building a landscape myself. This gives a lot of control in the image-making. I developed interesting methods within this project to explore themes of escapism and traveling within strict limitations. The works deceives the viewer, creating a sublime landscape from otherwise prosaic materials. This way I want to challenge the notion of the imagined sublime and our willingness to believe in it.
In 2021, when traveling was accessible again, I made a series of photographs in the Swiss Alps. In this series I approached the mountains as beings. They seem in constant motion by the changing light and the clouds lurking over them. Where normally the mountains of Switzerland are associated with the picturesque, I wanted to show the roughness of the landscape. After a lot of driving, climbing and walking, the mountains seemed to be ‘coming at me’. I felt shaky and light in my head. This force of nature took me over. The landscapes are isolated and in most of the photographs there’s no trace of humans. They become alienating. Through the black and white, I show the roughness and purity of the surroundings.
While photographing outside again, I've noticed that my gaze had changed. Whereas I normally pack a lot of materials and equipment, I now made this series with one camera and lens. I didn’t take ‘props’ but only focused on the mountains themselves. I was more focused on getting close instead of capturing the vastness of the landscape. The textures and tactile-ness in this work made me want to create mountains out of other materials myself again.
At the moment I am building landscapes out of natural materials again, but also out of very human-made materials such as 3D prints. I'm researching the question: 'What does it mean when you construct a landscape?'. We live in the Anthropocene, the 'geological era of man', in which the (disastrous) influence of man is present everywhere on earth.
What, How, Why
Series of mountains
A series of photographs made in the mountains of Switzerland. I made over 90 images en made a selection out of these. I ended up with a selection of 14 images. The photographs differ from close-ups where you can see the structures and details of the surfaces, to medium shots where you can see the mountain tops as a whole. They are made on black and white film and are all taken with the same lens. All of the photographs are highly contrasted. They have deep blacks and there's harsh light on the surfaces of the mountains. Most of the photographs are covered in clouds, they give a dark impression. The landscapes are isolated. In most of the photographs there’s no trace of humans.
Whereas I normally pack a lot of materials and equipment, I now made this series with one camera and lens. I didn’t take ‘props’ but only focused on the mountains themselves and getting close by using a telelens. I used a black and white film so I could focus on the shapes and the light falling on the mountains. Also, shooting analog makes me more focused on making clear decisions where with a digital camera I’d be constantly checking the results.
In this series I approached the mountains as beings. They seem in constant motion by the changing light and the clouds lurking over them. Where normally the mountains of Switzerland are associated with the picturesque, I wanted to show the roughness of the landscape. After a lot of driving, climbing and walking, the mountains seemed to ‘come at me’. I felt shaky and light in my head. This force of nature took me over. The landscapes are isolated and in most of the photographs there’s no trace of humans. By capturing the mountains in black and white, I’m showing the roughness and purity of them.
This description is about two diptychs I’ve made. I started selecting images from the series of mountains and I made ‘imitations’ of these real mountains. I’ve put the two images together, of the real mountain and the imitated one. Diptych 1: there are two images next to each other. In the left image you can see a black and white photo of a mountain range. There are a lot of clouds lurking over the mountains and you can see some snow at some places. The contrast of the image is quite high, there are strong blacks and some highlights. The sky is bright and has a light grey tone. In the photo on the right you can also see a mountain range. Looking at the shape it looks a bit like the mountain in the left image. The composition is different though, this mountain range is placed more below in the frame. In the right image there’s also a high contrast but in this case the sky is black and it has darker tones overall. Diptych 2: there are two images next to each other. In the left image you can see a mountain which is pretty dark. It has a lot of blacks and the structure is harsh. This photograph is highly contrasted as well and here there are also a lot of clouds lurking over the mountain. In the right image you can see a mountain that looks a bit like the mountain in the left image but it’s also quite different. In this image the mountain has a lot of white and grey tones and the sky is darker. There’s also a sign of clouds lurking over de mountain, but these clouds have different shapes.
In the first imitation I used clay to make a mountain and I tried to follow the shapes of the original image. It was pretty hard to imitate the lighting in the first diptych. I used studio lighting and it ended up like almost being a negative of the original image. At a first glance you think you are looking at a mountain but when you look closely you see there’s something off. There is high contrast in both of the images from the diptych. The original image of the real mountain almost looks flat. There is little depth in the imitated image so this is why I think the images work well together. In the second diptych In the second diptych I used a new material to create a miniature mountain. It's a 3D print of a mountain, so it’s made out of plastic. I found these models online, I figured out that you can make these 3D print models out of satellite images. In the second imitated image I used natural lighting and smoke from a smoke machine to imitate the clouds. There’s a similar effect happening in the second diptych, it almost looks like a negative of the image of the real mountain.
Because of the strong contrast and visible structures in these images, I had the urge to make something with my hands again. I took me back to the time where I couldn’t travel and made my own landscapes build from basic materials. I was drawn to the tangible aspect of my photographs of the mountains and started making a mountain out of clay. There’s an aspect of illusion in this work and the question I’m asking myself in this work is what is the difference in making these miniature mountains and photographing them as oppose to experiencing and photographing the mountains in real life?
Video's of 3D printed mountains
Three videos of a 3D printed mountain that all last around between 30 and 45 seconds. They are all recorded in a self-made studio.
1: In this video the camera is moving backwards at a very slow pace and the image seems to be blurry from all of the fog/smoke in it. The fog is moving very fast and you can hear the sound of the wind whispering pretty aggressively. There is little color in the video, the colors exist out of white, grey and yellowish tones. You can see a mountain range through the fog and half way the video the fog slowly disappears. The image gets more crisp. What stands out is the fact that the mountain range seems to abruptly end on the left and right side. Towards the end of the video you can see a structure on surface of the mountain. It has an unnatural look to it. In the complete end of the video you can see there’s a clear ‘cut of’ of the mountain. https://vimeo.com/670664780
2: This video gives a different impression than the first one. The scene is a bit darker and the colors are slightly bluer than in the first video. In this video too, there seems to be a strong wind, looking at the movement of the fog and listening to the sound. As oppose to the first video, here the camera is moving forward. Also in a very slow pace. The video is sharp in the front of the image but blurry at the end, apparently because of the depth in field. You also see a mountain range but in this video it looks like the mountains are higher. It feels the camera is striking over de surface of a landscape and is slowly moving towards a top of a mountain. Looking at the structure, the surface seems to be layered. Towards the end of the video there’s a quick moment of darkness. As if the light goes out. In the end were looking at mountain tops but they stay in the shadow of the fog and never become really sharp. https://vimeo.com/670661237
3: This video gives a bit of the same impression as the second one. It has similar lighting, although it’s a bit brighter than the second video. In this video too, the camera is moving forward slowly. The video is sharp in the front of the image but blurry at the end, apparently because of the depth in field
Chapter 1: Mountain
Chapter 2: The Lens
Chapter 3: Macro
Chapter 4: Anthropocene
References/ (annotated) bibliography
[I added this, from your proposal.]
Conversations with landscape – Karl Benediktsson, Katrin Anna Lund
Conversations With Landscape moves beyond the conventional dualisms associated with landscape, exploring notions of landscape and its relation with humans through the metaphor of conversation. With contributions drawn from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, geography, archaeology, philosophy, literature and the visual arts, this book explores the affects and emotions engendered in the conversations between landscape and humans.
Examples: the making of 40 photographs - Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams talks about the situations around the making of his photos and the methods he used to realize them. Each image is accompanied by a text that studies the technical and aesthetic conditions of the subject and contains memories of the places and people involved.
Space is the place – Lukas Feireiss
Together with artists, designers, architects, curators, historians, theoreticians and philosophers, it questions the experience, imagination and design of spaces and places in theory and practice. The publication looks at contemporary artistic practices that turn spaces into places. Space and place are explored as topics and mediums of playful investigation and serious reflection.
Landscape and power – W.J.T. Mitchell
A studie on landscape by considering landscape not simply as an object to be seen or a text to be read, but as an instrument of cultural force, a central tool in the creation of national and social identities
The Living Mountain - Nan Shepherd
Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Shepherd spent a lifetime in search of the 'essential nature' of the Cairngorms.
Mountains Of The Mind - Robert Mcfarlane
In Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind, he sets out to explain what drives people to the mountains in their droves, and especially what drives those who are prepared to risk their lives in pursuit of a particular summit.
Natural:Mind - Vilém Flusser
Flusser investigates the paradoxical connection between the concepts of nature and culture through a para-phenomenological analysis of natural and cultural phenomena.
Henri Lefèbvre - The production of space
The book is a search for a reconciliation between mental space and real space. In the course of his exploration, Lefèbvre moves from metaphysical and ideological considerations of the meaning of space to its experience in the everyday life of home and city.
Daniel Rubinstein - Fragmentation of the Photographic Image in the Digital Age
Aldo Leopold: Think like a mountain
Robert Mcfarlane: a lot of books
The Sublime Anthropocene - Byron Willisto
A Terrible Beauty: Art and learning in the Anthropocene - Shiralee Hudson Hill
The Sublime - Simon Morley