Influences - Gabriele Basilico

Having had my appetite for documentary landscape photography wetted by my study of Fay Godwin's work I have continued to explore other directions landscape photography has taken outside of the romantic depiction of the landscape. In previous posts I have mentioned a few other influences - John Davies, John Kippin are two whose work has shown me how landscape photography can take on a more influential even political role. I have also been studying the work of Italian photographer Gabriele Basilico. Basilico is one of the best-known 'documentary' photographers in Europe. 

His work, like that of John Davies is directed at the city and industrialised landscapes. He photographs mostly in black and white using a large format 5x4 camera. In his pictures modest buildings and unlikely cityscapes seem to me to become works of art. Basilico trained as an architect and this seems to have  influenced the discipline with which he composes his photographs. His work rarely includes any human presence so one is left to ponder the buildings themselves - how they relate to one another and how they come together to create a sense of place. The image below is a picture of an apartment block in Milan. For me this representation of the building seems to give it far more grandeur and status than one my offer it when casually walking by in the street. Basilico himself likens the image to a stage set which has just been vacated by the actors - I like this interpretation. The eye is not diverted from the buildings by the presence of human interest. 

His industrial landscapes invoke a similar sense of awe. His work is rarely romantic but this image of the port of Dunkirk is perhaps an exception - at its heart though this image is documentary in nature.

His technique is impeccable and the large format movements enable him to straighten the verticals and keep all elements in focus. 

The work of John Davies and Gabriele Basilico has lead me to consider a future photographic project in which I would document how the post industrial economy has impacted on the landscape of Doncaster  - the old mining town where I was born. With the closure of the mines the town is now dependent on shopping malls, call centres, warehouses etc....I would like to capture images showing how this has changed the town by capturing images with both the old industrial and the new post industrial architecture....now sure how feasible this is but it is certainly an idea for me to pursue. Here are a couple of my exploratory images of the old Doncaster....

We Are OCA

I have become involved in a number of discussion streams on the Photography Feed of We Are OCA. I have found this a great food for thought and by participating in the discussions have found myself having to think more coherently about my views on a wide range of photographic subjects. The blog has been considering issues ranging from the link between documentary and art photography, street photography, the work of Cindy Sherman. I will continue to participate in this blog and engage with my fellow students and our tutors who take a lead role in stimulating this activity.


Format Derby 2011

Yesterday I attended an OCA organised visit to The Format Photographic Festival in Derby. The event was well attended with 15 students and four OCA staff/tutors. It was a great opportunity to talk to others about their work and to gain valuable insights from the tutors Jose Navarro and Clive White.

The theme of the Festival was 'Right Here, Right Now' Exposures from the public realm - essentially it was dedicated to street photography. As some of my favourite photographers were exhibiting - Alex Webb, Constantine Manos, Joel Meyerowitz - I had a great day. 

To begin with we visited the Quad Gallery where a great variety of street photographers were on display from all parts of the globe - UK, China, USA, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. 

My eye was immediately caught by the Joel Meyerowitz photographs by the entrance. What was particularly interesting for me was to see how his work had moved on from black and white street work, to colour on the street and then to the use of Large Format for his more recent portrait studies - a photographer must keep moving seems to be the message!

I spent quite a lot of time at the exhibition and had the opportunity to reflect on what drew me to particular photographers. Strong colour and constrast are certainly aesthetic factors, but it I was most taken by those photographers who had drawn their work together under a distinct theme which had some substance to it. My particular favourites on the day were:

- Frederic Lezmi's travelog of a journey from Austria to Beirut. I thought the way the photographs had been arranged as a continuous film-like display worked really well. These two photographs taken through windows both have a sense of mystery about them but both also portray their central characters so well - the strong mature business woman and the beautiful young maid.

- George Georgiou's exploration of Turkey's modernisation and national identity also held my attention. I felt drawn back to the images to look deeper into them.

- Dougie Wallace's reflections on life which showed a series of faces of people on trams about to depart - most are lost in thought leaving one to wonder what this person is about. The images are from all over the globe.

- Zhiang Xiao whose image depict the Chinese coastline - one can see the increasing development and westernisation but the spirit of the people appears to remain intact.  Often the images which contain much information have curious and amusing details within them - the man with the spotted sunburned back, the lady swimming in her dress and such like. The matrix arrangement of the photographs also intrigued - one was tempted to connect the images but left wondering about how to do this.

Jose had also asked us to look at the work by British photographer Peter Dench who has been documenting British society in the 21st century. He describes his work as  'explore[ing] all four corners documenting ethnic diversity, the miserable weather and the many characters [he] met along the way'. to be honest I did not like his work. I felt it was unbalanced, focusing on the worst elements within society often exploiting his subjects at times when they were under stress or at times of weakness, e.g. people living on the streets, people injured in car accidents drunken people etc. His work is similar in some ways to that of Martin Parr but lacks Parr's wit and satirical power in my view. Here is an example of his photography.

We moved from the Quad Gallery to the 'Take to the Streets' exhibition of leading Magnum photographers which is an outdoor exhibit in the square in front of the Quad. As I mentioned at the start of this post, some of my favourite photographers were on show. This exhibition only served to reinforce my opinion of their work. Two stood out for me:

- Alex Webb  has  a very personalised style based on the strong use of colour and contrast. Many of his images are complex compositionally and often he will break up the frame into components using doors, windows, archways shadows etc. Each element then seems to develop a life of its own leading to a multilayered reading of the images. His work is visually attractive and intriguing.

- Constantine Manos's work American Colour is brilliantly conceived in my view. His subjects are people in the streets, but in reality the actual subject is the colour itself. This he finds in abundance in Florida where most of the images are taken. What is also interesting is that one rarely sees the faces of the people in the photographs. They could be wearing sunglasses, be in shade, be turned away, be cropped out etc. This mitigates any sense of exploitation in his photographs and emphasises that the real subject is the colour itself.

From the Magnum show we went on to the Derby Museum and Art Gallery. The main exhibits that grabbed my attention was the Bruce Gilden work and the In-Publik movie.

- Bruce Gilden has a very distinctive and intrusive style of street photography. He gets up close and personal with his subjects and to cap it off uses a flash to capture them like rabbits in headlights! I watched the movie of him working and it was clear that some of his subjects were less than happy about his approach and felt singled out and victimised. This reinforced my view that my own style should be based on a sympathetic approach to my subjects not a confrontational one. Whilst I feel that many of his images have a strong powerful impact I was slightly disturbed by his approach and do not count myself as a fan of Gilden's work. 

- The In-Publik movie gave a great insight into the thinking of many well regarded street photographers. I took away a numerous thoughts about what they try to achieve with their work....

...humourous juxtaposition - Nick Turpin
...moments of magic - David Gibson
...drama in everyday life - David Solomons
...the world is a beautiful place - Richard Bram
...find structure in situations that are out of control - Gus Powell

Essentially though they are all looking for those 'moments of magic' in everyday life...this seems a great credo for street photography

Our final port of call was MOB Format HQ. Here was the headquarters of the Festival and also the exhibition of work submitted by members of the public. The organisers have set out six themes under which photographs should be submitted:
Street Surreal  
Shoot from the hip  
Decisive moment  
In the crowd
Street noir  
When worlds collide 

These are an excellent structure for thinking about developing a style in street photography and is one which I plan to think about in terms of my own style.

So I had a great day but what did I learn. The key points for me to reflect on are:

·      I have strong preference for colour and contrast - I will probably base my own work around this approach
·      I do not like exploitative street photography - my aim is not to poke fun at people but to find those 'moments of magic'
·      I prefer work where there is an evident linking them....almost a photo essay approach. This theme need not be about the people in the scene it could be something else like Manos's work with colour
·      I need to avoid forcing myself down the track of other photographers. I need to keep shooting and to allow my style to come through naturally
·      I need to take all opportunities to mix with other photographers!!
·      I need to keep learning and keep an open mind!!


Project 36 - defining a style - Robert Adams

My review of Fay Godwin's work and in particular her 'My Forbidden Land' and 'The Edge of the Land' has lead me to broaden my view of landscape photography beyond one of celebrating the beauty of the landscape to its role in documenting man's influence (often adverse influence) on the land. The 1975 exhibition 'New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape' at George Eastman House International Museum Rochester New York USA was a major milestone for this style of critical landscape photography.

The exhibition showed the work of a number of contemporary photographers who were working on documenting how man was impacting on the landscape. Nine photographers (or photographic duos) were featured - Robert Adams, Lewis Balz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore and Henry Wessel Jr. The work of these photographers and in particular their detached documentary style threatened to undermine Modernists efforts over generations to establish photography's expressive capability. This quotation from William Jenkins the curator of the exhibition illustrates the point,  "..[by taking] great pains to eliminate the slightest trace of judgement or opinions from entering their work... photographers can foster ambiguity around the very issue of attachment: the picture's attachment to the world, the makers attachment to a particular subject, and the viewers attachment to the transparency of both these relationships".

My 100 word synopsis of Robert Adams style follows below:

Robert Adams was born in 1937 in New Jersey USA. His photographic practice is largely landscape work. He became interested in documenting the influence of man on America's western landscapes. His work is largely in black and white. He began by using 35mm he moved on to large format 10x8 camera. His images are deadpan representations of what he found. Very often he shows the encroachment of low grade housing on the wilderness, with the dwellings in the foreground and grand mountain vistas beyond. Whilst understated his images are carefully composed and perfectly executed. His detachment allows the viewer to form his/her own view on what is being presented. This book cover from The New West illustrates his style.


Project 36 - defining a style - Marc Garanger

Marc Garanger is a French photojournalist. His work Louisiane Entre ciel et terre presents Garanger's photographs of the state of Louisiana in the USA. It was produced in 1989 and was commissioned by Kodak as a trial for its new Ektar colour film. The photographs depict the people and the landscape of the state. My analysis of Garanger's style is based on his landscape work.

Garanger's images are characterised by their strong contrast and rich colour. He often shoots contre jour with dramatic effect and makes great use of the 'magic hours' around sunrise/sunset. Many of the images have an abstract feel with shapes being defined by areas of light and shadow. Most have a limited colour palette with rich greens and browns predominating. The Ektar film seems to have a brown tinge which adds atmosphere to the images. The photographs are shot in 35mm and have a spontaneity about them with relatively loose framing. Garanger uses his landscape work to provide context for his wider documentary photography. Here is a photograph (cropped from the original in the book) which shows the rich colour palette - I was unable to find any other work on line sadly.


28mm Elmarit 50mm Summicron accreditation Alex Soth American West Ansel Adams Art of Snapshot as Assignment Assignment Four Assignment One Assignment Two ball head Beauty Berkshire black and white Brighton Photo Biennial 2010 british museum Buckinghamshire Burnham Beeches Canada Caponigro Central St Martins Charlie Waite city Cliveden cloud Club La Santa collage competition composition course criticism Daisy Gilardini David Alan Harvey davidnoton derby detail Dorset drama dusk exhibition f/64 Famara Fay Godwin Feedback Fernando Gomez figures Filters format framing Framing foreground interest composition Freeman Gabriele Basilico galen rowell Georgia O'Keefe grain Hambleden Harrison Hot Springs hawaii influence ironman Jasper Joel Meyerowitz John Davies Kingston Lacey Lake District Landscape landscape format Languedoc Lanzarote LEARNING LOG-April2010 LEARNING LOG-April2011 LEARNING LOG-August2010 LEARNING LOG-August2011 LEARNING LOG-December2010 LEARNING LOG-Feb2010 LEARNING LOG-February-2011 LEARNING LOG-January-2011 LEARNING LOG-July2010 LEARNING LOG-June2010 LEARNING LOG-June2011 LEARNING LOG-March-2011 LEARNING LOG-March2010 LEARNING LOG-March2011 LEARNING LOG-May2010 LEARNING LOG-May2011 LEARNING LOG-November2010 LEARNING LOG-October 2010 LEARNING LOG-September2010 leica Lely's Venus lenses light Light Science and Magic london LPOY2010 Malhotra man-made Marc Garanger Martin Parr Mirrors and Windows Mississippi Molly Landreth MOMA moon National Media Museum National Trust near and far Nick Gleis OCA one acre opening Overton Hill panorama perspective Phil Malpas photographer polariser Portfolio portrait format portraits post-modern projects Quotation realism Rinko Kawauchi Robert Adams royalphotographicsociety Running seasons Silhouette sky snow soft colour soft light Stephen Gill street street 35mm Summicron Studland style Sunrise Szarkowski team telephoto Terri Weifenbach test Timanfaya trees triathlon tripod TriUK Tutor two UK Urban Development USA water Watlington Hill weareoca West Kennett Western Art Weston wide angle Windsor Workshop Yosemite

About Me

I have been taking photographs since I was young boy some 45 years ago, but only seriously since 2005 when I enrolled to study at the Open College of the Arts. I am working towards a BA in Photography. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society. This log record details of my projects and assignments during my studies. It also records ideas, work by other artists/photographers, notes on books/websites/exhibitions, influences, discoveries, thoughts, research findings and observations as I work through my courses. You can contact me at keith.greenough@btinternet.com or simply leave a comment on one of my posts.

Landscape Photography Bibliography

  • Andrea G Stillman (2007), Ansel Adams 400 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Andy Grundberg (1999), Crisis of the Real, Aperture Foundation New York
  • Ansel Adams (2007), Examples The Making of 40 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Ben Maddow(1989), Edward Weston, His Life, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Charlie Waite (1989), Scottish Islands, Constable London
  • Charlie Waite (1992), The Making of Landscape Photographs, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (1999), Seeing Landscapes, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (2002), In My Minds Eye, Photographers Institute Press East Sussex UK
  • Charlie Waite (2005), Landscape, Collins and Brown London
  • Clive Minnitt and Phil Malpas(2009), Finding the Picture, Envisage Books London
  • David Noton (2008), PHOTOGRAPY ESSENTIALS: WAITING FOR THE LIGHT, David & Charles PLC, London
  • Fay Godwin(1985), Land, William Heinemann London
  • Fay Godwin(1990), Our Forbidden Land, Jonathan Cape London
  • Fay Godwin(1998), Glassworks & Secret Lives, Stella Press East Sussex UK
  • Fay Godwin(2001), Landmarks, Dewi Lewis Publishing Stockport UK
  • Galen Rowell (1995), Mountain Light, Sierra Club Books San Francisco USA
  • Galen Rowell (2001), Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Norton & co New York USA
  • Galen Rowell (2002),Galen Rowell's Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, University of California Press USA
  • Harry Callaghan (1993), Ansell Adams in Color, Little Brown New York USA
  • Hunter, Biver & Fuqua(2007), Light Science & Magic, Elsevier Oxford UK
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2006), Working the Light, Argentum London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2007), Developing Style and Vision, Argentum London
  • Joel Meyerowitz (2002), Cape Light, Little Brown and Company New York USA
  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Modern Classics
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book 2 Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book I Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John Szarkowski (1981), American Landscapes, The Museum of Modern Art New York USA
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 01 (2007), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 02 (2008), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 03 (2009), AA Publishing
  • Liz Wells (1996), Photography:A Critical Introduction, Routledge Oxon
  • Liz Wells (2003), The Photography Reader, Routledge Oxon
  • Marc Garanger (1989), Louisiane, Kodak
  • Robert Adams (1996), Beauty in Photography, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Robert Adams et al (2009), New Topographics, Steidl Germany
  • Stephen Shaw (2004), Uncommon Places The Complete Works, Thames and Hudson, London
  • Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin Books London
  • Terence Pitts (2008), Edward Weston (Icons Series), Taschen
  • TPOTY Awards (2010), TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR Journey Three, Travel Photographer of the Year Suffolk UK