Landscape saves the world from "wall fodder" at Bristol's Photo Gallery

By Ben Miller | 04 November 2010
Motherland, by Simon Roberts, brings Russia to Bristol for The Photo Gallery's Landscape show
Exhibition: Landscape, The Photo Gallery, Bristol, November 6-17 2010

Landscape photography, protest the planners behind the second of four exhibitions examining contemporary practice at The Photo Gallery, is “one of those branches of photography which is so appealing to the picture buying public that it has become associated with the sort of bland scenes that you might find on the walls of a hotel.”

As connoisseurs concerned at the dilution of the medium, they suggest it is full of “superfluous foreground objects” shot in “a gratuitous display of technical prowess”, framed against stereotypical exotic locations to result in little more than wall fodder.

Few artists have railed as feverishly against this perceived plague than Simon Roberts, the House of Commons election photographer whose Motherland project provided an intimate account of people and places during a year-long trek across Russia six years ago, captured on large format shots which have an investigative, documentary feel to them.

Routes and journeys loom large, from Tamany Baker’s pictures of the extreme seasons in Iceland and the psychogeographical sense of its landscapes, which were hosted by Reykjavik City Hall in 2007, to images of a lost motorway by Jan Töve, a Swedish photographer and writer who won the Scandinavian Nature Photographer of the Year in 2004.

If you’re not familiar with the power of gum bichromate, a 19th century process turning film negatives into painterly prints, Christina Z Anderson provides a masterclass in the field for her series, The Altered Landscape, where narratives and tragicomedies of human traces and scarred terrain are played out.

Jo Seong Hee has been influenced by adventure, forging fictional cities with individual photographs for Invisible Cities, and award-winning young photographer Toby Smith has visited every power station in England at night. Emma Wieslander also contributes Glacier 60000, a video piece breaking down a landscape into a map-like digital image ahead of her solo exhibition at the gallery in January.

Open 9am-6pm Monday-Friday (11am-6pm Saturday). Admission free. The Photo Gallery, Baldwin Street, Bristol. Visit the gallery online.
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