In these days of technology and seemingly endless possibilities it is sometimes hard to define what art is and what defines good art. Only in recent years have photography been included in the ‘good art’ category, which I must admit, is fair enough. Even though you could argue that masterpieces such as Constables landscape paintings requires more skill and effort than taking landscape photographs, I still believe that catching a view, in a specific light and in that very moment is an art in itself. Elaborating on that – what then is landscape photography in 2013? Is it beautifully hidden forests in Arizona, a New York sky scraper or a photo showing the impact the human race have on this world in terms of pollution and damage?
The curator of Landmark: the Fields of Photography, William A. Ewing answers yes to all of the questions above by guiding the viewer smoothly from piece to piece in a new exhibition at Somerset House. The exhibition, which presents 130 original works, argues that the world is best viewed – both from Earth, space and under water – as it really is. Because of that, the exhibition features photographs of beautiful and astonishing landscapes, but also, up-close shots of an oil spill, a river running red with nickel tailings and a dried out lake. The viewer is left with a feeling that the exhibition wants to show the contrasts between the beautiful and the ruined corners of the world.
Another thing that fascinated me about this exhibition was the clever use of social media. In our days where a 1,42 million images are uploaded to Flickr DAILY (and that is only one of the many sites used to share pictures), the exhibition has a whole wall dedicated to sunset snaps taken by amateurs on Flickr. By showing how millions of people have been affected equally by the beauty of a simple sunset, Ewing raises an important question – if that view is so important to people all over the world, why don’t we do more to preserve it?
The exhibition makes you step back and truly consider the state of the planet and what we have done to our inheritance. It is a remarkable collection of photographs – and I thought, still more in the Constable corner of things – the presentation and actual set-up of the exhibition was almost as artistic as some of the individual pieces. You can still argue whether or not photography is an art, but after seing the exhibition and being left with a feeling that ‘I need to go and save the earth’, there is no doubt that photography, can make an impact.