‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men’

Deborah Bright – “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men”

Click to access Bright-Marlboro.pdf

This is very interesting, and as much a critique of landscape art curating as it is of a male-centric view of landscape in general. She argues that prevailing aesthetic tradition had become too fixed on reinterpreting the work of previous landscape photographers without any meaningful context.  She mentions Abigail Solomon-Godeau saying how this kind of random selection can “produce evidence in support of any argument, no matter how tendentious”. She does not explicitly deny that the interpretations supplied by John Szarkowski (among others) isn’t valid, rather that any interpretation without the correct context is meaningless.

Her essay can be read as a cry of frustration that the prevailing aesthetic is too fixed to the original 17th century idea of landscape, as a way to demonstrate mastery of our environment. Much of the curatorial interpretation tries to reinforce the idea of the photographer as rugged individual, shaping the image to demonstrate their own individuality – and masculinity.  She also mentions (referring to Robert Adams) how individual photographers own intentions can get subsumed by the prevailing view of what landscape should mean. Viewpoints can get lost due to the pressure of market forces.

She does give examples where a different view of the landscape is given, both with explicit environmental concerns. John Craig Freeman writes about the construction of his “Operation Greenrun ii” project (https://johncraigfreeman.wordpress.com/operation-greenrun-ii/) with photographs of the billboards he constructed. These provide a very different aesthetic to that previously determined to be the true point of landscape. Lisa Lewenz’s “Three Mile Island Calendar” is harder to track down online but the description that Deborah Bright gives, and the single image I could find, do also show a very different viewpoint.

In my previous post I have noted some ideas I have had for the critical review required for assignment 4. Deborah Bright’s essay has a direct bearing on these thoughts and will certainly have a bearing if I do go with one of these approaches     

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