Fullmoon

Fullmoon

Darren Almond, Fullmoon, published by Taschen, 2014 (cover)

Fullmoon

 

How many photographers have tried to find a way to represent a landscape? Landscape photography is mostly about the love of being somewhere and wanting to visually communicate about the physical attributes or cultural specificities of a landscape in some way. When landscape photography is aesthetically appealing in a new, unfamiliar way it commands attention, viewers will want to know more than where? They will want to know how the photographs were captured, and why.

How many photographers fail at producing a landscape photograph that says more than they were there? And it was gorgeous? How many viewers look at a landscape photograph and gently search for a caption to tell them the location so they can work out if they were once there too? Or will casually make a memo to visit sometime. Landscape as subject for the camera deserves more.

Darren Almond’s book is filled with page after page of what appear to be relatively straightforward landscape photographs. But each photograph is bathed in an icy-grey, steely light. Almond’s pretext for gathering the photographs subtly extends the historic romantic cohesion between man and landscape by using an unusual light source. Using extended photographic exposures in varying degrees of duration he captures his landscapes using the milky, illuminating properties of moonlight. This is not a body of work [1] concerned with documenting an aspect of landscape that is socially, or politically engaged with the relationship between man and land. This is an appreciation of being there in a landscape, homage to the precursors of romantic wanderings and poetic wonderings about the relationship between nature, light and its effect on human eyes, human beings. Something one of Almond’s influences – Nan Shepherd – could describe so well in words seems to be replicated in his photographs.

Glitter paths are replaced by sliver slides across un-rippled water, caught and stilled in the dead of a night. He appears to try and get beyond the mere actuality of being there and somehow harvests the historic atmosphere of place through the stillness he finds in the un-peopled hours after daylight. At times organized by geography and anchoring his photographs to place (Ribblehead, 2004), then at other times briefly descriptive (Fell, 2005) his captions refer to location as a subtle detail, not a necessary subtitle. All of the reproduced photographs have an otherness to them that comes from the choice of light source that the photographer has used: available moonlight. As with most landscape photographs time, light and composition are important here.

Gazing and looking at a landscape can be compulsive if you are there. Glimpsing, glancing or tearing yourself away from a photograph of a beautiful landscape is rather easier. Especially when you are grappling with a tome that is voluminous, heavy, unwieldy and begs for a low table to rest upon. But then there lies the distinction; we usually look at photographs of beautiful landscapes and not a beautiful, compelling landscape photograph. Those are few and far between – whether in a book or on a wall. These photographs require prolonged and considered attention that a weighty book such as Fullmoon demands.

The photograph is often a substitute for experience. It can be an aide memoire. In looking at landscape photographs we should be wondering and connecting with the images in some way, just as this photographer did with his chosen landscapes.

 – reviewed by Helen James

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[1] Over 260 images are reproduced in this publication from Almond’s Fullmoon series.