An essay written by Robert Adams about landscape photography. To make successful landscape photographs, he explains that one must take into account three different factors: geography, autobiography and metaphor. Geography, if taken alone can be boring and dull. It is a simple matter of what is unique about the place to the photographer, and what proves as interesting through the view finder. Autobiography is concerned with why a photographer has chosen to make a particular image. What does he or she find interesting about that certain place, and for what reason have they stopped to make all of the creative decisions necessary to make a landscape picture. A photographer always possesses their own preconceptions of what constitutes a beautiful or meaningful photograph, and therefore the process of recording a place through photography is always a highly personal matter. Metaphor then, is concerned with what a photographer is trying to convey within a landscape photograph. How are they using imagery as a vehicle to transport the viewer into that world, and to attempt to understand what is contained within a particular frame. Clearly then, if a photograph is lacking in any one area of this triad of success, then the overall effect on the viewer is likely to be hampered. It is therefore important for a landscape photographer to take into account his or her own preconceptions, and to be actively critical of their surroundings before making landscape imagery.
Essay on Stephen Shore, American Surfaces – Phaidon – originally published in Issue magazine, number 9, 2006.