Finding an approach

Aspen and Red Foliage. ©David Gardner

Picking up where I left off in my last post. For me, it has gotten more and more difficult to photograph in my usual way. Unless I get well off the beaten path, there so often is a power line or fence, a condensation trail, or some other sort of human intervention interfering with my chosen composition. It was on a day like this that I began thinking about how I might change my approach to photographing the landscape in order to embrace rather than exclude the changing landscape. I was hanging over a barbed wire fence festooned with No Trespassing signs. I was stretched over as far as I could, trying to get just the right positioning to make an image of aspen trees growing up through very red foliage. I made the image I wanted, but it came to me that perhaps I should begin to include these unwanted elements somehow.


So I continued to photograph in the places I normally would, but now I began looking for the interventions and purposefully including them. I still did not yet know what this way about. For now I just wanted to make the photographs and see where it led me. In time the ideas would come.

Heather in Flames. Convict Lake, CA 2007 ©David Gardner 2008

I had to decide a general theme for the project. I started by giving myself a broad guideline, saying only places where humans had marked the landscape in some way would be part of it. Now, walking through the landscape, I was picking out the evidence of human presence and creating compositions around them. This was working in a general way. I  still didn’t really understand what the project was about. I knew I didn’t want this to simply be a typology of marks. Nor did I want to try to explain why people make these marks. The reasons can be as varied as the marks. Rather, than look at WHY we mark, I wanted to explore the fact THAT we mark. It is something uniquely human. We know animals “mark” the land to indicate territory, but when we mark, we seem not to say “I was here”, but “I AM here” – a declaration of existence.

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