Exercise 4.4: ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men’

For this exercise, we have to read Deborah Bright’s essay “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men!”. After reading the essay we have to note key points of interest and personal reflections.

As in previous similar exercises, my key points will be in normal text whereas the reflections in italics.

  • Every image or painting of landscape, is not only a form of art, but also represents people actions and values. Sometimes, the only source for information we have for specific eras and places are only by paintings/ photos of the time, I just wonder how representative and accurate those were. For example, we can see the cloths people were wearing on the 1600s from the paintings, but are those idealised or exaggerated by the painters? Something similar could have happen for the cities and landscapes.
  • Early on the 20th century there was an appreciation of countryside and wild areas. In order to make these places easier accessible train networks and roads were built. Photography and motion pictures have been used to “advertise” and show to people how beautiful were those places. Also those images have been used in advertising, not only for showing the beauty of the places but also as a theme in adverts of any subject. I feel that there is a kind of relation of that with the use of recent technological inventions. Drones are used to show natural beauty from a different point of view. Also, use of photography in social networks. Just while writing, I thought that as the landscapes of the past were used for example to sell cigarettes, something similar is happening in instagram when companies pay people to “include” their products in their photos. Not so clear advertising as in the past, but things have changed, the marketing changed and a lot of research has been done on how to use advertising in imaging (sometimes subconsciously).
  • There were far less female women in Landscape exhibitions and publications. I think something similar was happening in painting. We know many male famous painters from 1400-1800s but not so many female. Possibly more recently things have changed. There is a good balance between male and female photographer in social media or contemporary galleries. Especially, in self portraiture in photography there are many female photographers. One of the possible reasons is the beauty of the female body as form, but also I think that might has to do with the change of the role of the woman in the society. I mean in general that they might get involved more in the arts as their role changed: mainly from mother to an independent working person.
  • Sometimes, landscape photography is only representation, which does not express any specific issue. It only to view them, not to have an effect or to raise a discussion. In some cases this is also supported by the way they are presented in the museums or galleries, without captions or much information etc. As mentioned in previous posts, my initial feeling before start this course was that the landscape photography is mainly to represent the beauty and not to raise issues as for example is happening though photojournalism. Later during the course I understood that I was not correct.
  • In some other cases when an artist has something to say though their photos, they found that their work is not promoted so much as the art world wants to keep art free from clear politics. I do not know if that point of view is still valid today as the essay was written around 30 years ago. My feeling is that today people can express some opinion through art but sometimes those opinions are filtered if the people who have the power are not happy with them. So we possibly moved from the silencing to partial freedom. I do not really know what is worst
  • In order to reach wider audiences, Lisa Lewenz took images of landscapes and printed them as a calendar in affordable price, expressing her opinion for environmental issues. This was not limited by the restrictions of the museums, galleries eth where political opinions were not allowed.
  • In our days there are exhibitions and photography competitions that inspire people to see different environmental issues etc, for example the Exhibition I visited in London which was by the Royal Geographical Society. Furthermore, I think many things changed for photography and the use of it since the author wrote this article. The invention and broad use of internet and social media makes it easier for anybody to share their work. If we can grab the attention of a wide audience or a big newspaper a big audience can see our work. There is no need not to do what L. Lewenz did, to print as a calendar and sell the photos in order to be viewed by a wider audience. We just need to put them online and share them in social networks. On the other hand, the number of photographers doing the same things is bigger than 30 years ago, and possibly although is it easier to share, sometimes it is not so easy for your work to reach a bigger number of people. Also, seems like people spent less time to look to an image (some seconds) in social networks and I do not know if they really read the texts below the images. I know that maybe there is some contradiction on what I am saying but in one sentence, I think it is easier to share, but harder to be noticed.
  • Finally, I also think that more people and organisations recently are trying to promote the awareness about the environmental issues, as opposed to the time this article was written. People seems to be more sensitive for planet earth, pollution, global warming etc. Photography is one of the tools used to raise this awareness, both in printed posters etc and online.
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