Postcard views – response to Graham Clarke

Based on the postcards I chose to write about here I would agree with Graham Clarke, at least as far as postcards go. It seems quite common in postcards to position the viewpoint above the scene, so that the viewer is looking down on the landscape. The high positioning does give a sense of ownership; the viewer possesses the view. At the same time the viewer position – above and away – gives a sense of ‘separateness’ – the viewer is a visitor, a stranger even. Postcard scenes seem generally to be unconcerned with the inhabitants of the landscape as they go about their day to day lives. Local people may sometimes be depicted – there may be for example an image of a smiling fisherman – but only to imply a welcome. Much less likely is an image of fishermen hard at work hauling nets.

It should be possible to depict landscape without being an outsider. Of course actually being an insider will help but viewpoint position will always help to determine the intended impression. Just as postcards often use a high vantage point for the image, a lower viewpoint can give the opposite impression. Similarly a view from inside a room looking out will imply belonging; the viewer is an inhabitant looking at their own environment. This need not imply pleasure either; Clarke says landscape photography involves an element of pleasure but it seems to me that this is not necessarily always true.


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