Cornwall sojourn…picturesque, sublime, beautiful or just plain idealised…

Posted on December 14, 2013


I have been in Cornwall for a few days with a group of landscape photographers lead by Joe Cornish and David Ward. It was great to get out into the landscape and meet some passionate landscape photographers…. a refreshing change from my lonely London perambulations… I had the opportunity to work with my Phase One camera in low light conditions. Great practice for my East End work as low light photography is a key element of this project.

I decided to experiment with the idea of representing Cornwall’s association with tin mining by using the metaphor of darkness. In the short time available I produced two diptychs which juxtapose images of the dark spaces associated with mining alongside ones showing with the lightness of the place with its coastline and the sea. These are meant to represent the place itself and its industrial heritage. Here are the two diptychs.

Diptych 2, Cornwall December 2013 ©Keith Greenough 2013

Diptych 1, Cornwall December 2013
©Keith Greenough 2013

Diptych 1, Cornwall December 2013 ©Keith Greenough 2013

Diptych 2, Cornwall December 2013
©Keith Greenough 2013

I also had an opportunity to shoot some landscapes in a more ‘Romantic’ style.

Making the photograph below I had a real sense of the Sublime – the situation was very threatening. I felt the awesome power of the sea and how dangerous it can be, but at the same time I did not believe I was at risk standing there behind my tripod/camera….

Kynance Cove, Cornwall December 2013

Kynance Cove, Cornwall December 2013

This second image has a more tranquil mood… is not picturesque nor is it sublime, perhaps beautiful is the right description….

St. Michaels Mount, Marazion Cornwall December 2013 ©Keith Greenough 2013

St. Michaels Mount, Marazion Cornwall December 2013
©Keith Greenough 2013

The last two images are dedicated to my fellow OCA student and friend John Umney with whom I have been having a long running discussion about the role of beautiful images in contemporary art photography.

There seems to be little room for this kind of aesthetic in today’s art world… Beautiful images run the risk of being read critically as needless idealisations. But some artists/photographers do continue produce work which both echoes the Romantic and has been acknowledged as ‘art’ (as evidenced by its display on the walls of major galleries) – Simon Norfolk, Richard Misrach, Edward Burtinsky  to name just three.

So what is the place for such work. I think this depends critically on the conceptual basis for and contextualisation of the work. All of the above three photographers make their ‘beautiful/sublime’ images within a clearly articulated and contextualised framework. Elger Esser is another photographer who produces ‘beautiful/sublime’ work. He is one of the Dusseldorf School photographers whose work centres on the landscape…. Here is one of his images. I need to look more closely at his work.

©Elger Esser

©Elger Esser