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  • Writer's pictureJames Harrison

My Photography Manifesto (sort of)

In a movie that I saw many years ago, the main character, a composer, states that, “The purpose of the artist is to ease the passage of beauty into the world”. I like that idea. Conversely, I dislike the idea that the purpose of visual art is to expressly bring specific concepts and ideologies to the fore – those I see as the primary domain of literature and writers. A single image can say so much about Nature, and about human nature. The key, in the visual arts as I see them, is to avoid a thousand written words and rather let an image speak, in its own explicit, but inconclusive way.


Of course the boundaries between the arts, and even between the arts and sciences, are blurred and moveable, but it is helpful to have a clear emphasis. My emphasis in photography is the infinitely varied beauty of Nature which I attempt to present in a manner that is creative, authentic, and avoids clichéd tropes. I am particularly fond of opportunities to capture aspects of Nature in a semi-abstract or impressionistic way that prompts the viewer to take a second and third look.


Clichéd tropes in Nature photography are no small matter. The power and facility of photography to capture images of the natural world inevitably tends toward repetitive and overworked subject matter. This, in turn, creates pressure on photographers to come up with techniques and effects which can, and often do, lead to images that appear un-natural and artificial. I am anxious to avoid this popular photographic trend and pitfall.


Within the genre of landscape photography, I have coined the term “anthroposcenery” for images that depict a human impact on Nature at a landscape scale. (See a previous blog post for several examples.) More intimate images of folk art or kitsch sculptures of animals or humans, or graffiti on trees or rocks, can be seen as a largely unconscious demeaning of Nature for commercial and sentimental purposes. One could say that the subject is still beauty, but an unintentional perversion thereof.


My interest in architecture, especially places of worship and ruins, can be seen as a natural extension of anthroposcenery, or vice versa.


There is a fifth broad theme which I hope to explore more widely than I have managed to date. That theme is the positive relationship between humanity and Nature. This is a challenging theme because it lends itself to sentimentality and superficiality, thus it stands as a worthy challenge to my powers of observation and image capture. This theme could be termed “biophilia”, or “ecophilia”, or “Gaia-philia”. (I like Gaia-philia – I will probably grasp that handle.)



So there it is: Nature (at all scales), anthroposcenery, architecture, kitsch (especially as it relates to Nature), and Gaia-philia. These are my métier and photographic focus – may I be able to serve them well. (You will find that the organization of albums on this website reflect these five themes, but in somewhat greater detail.)


But what of my audience? What experiences of the art of photography do I intend to deliver to them? Well, nothing particularly unusual, I suppose: enjoyment, entertainment, stimulation, information and, when a picture is especially successful, some feeling, some emotional connection to the subject matter that lasts for a while and is committed to memory. The latter, especially, feels like success. And when my audience go so far as to buy pictures and hang them in their home or office, that is evidence that a connection has been achieved, and it is a lovely bonus.

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