Exercise 3: Viewpoints

Exercise 3 asks me to think how a landscape can change when seen (or photographed) from different points of view – from above, taken from ground level or looked upon from a map or Google Earth – and as an aid Creative Arts Today publishes three images, The Cheshire Plain from Beeston Castle (2008) by Derek Trillo, a cityscape  by the OCA student Peter Mansell and Agecroft Power Station (Salford, 1983) by John Davies. For ease of reference I shall call them Figure 1, Figure 2 and Figure 3 respectively.

All three were taken from a raised point of view, Figure 1 possibly with a telephoto setting that zooms in and eliminates any view of the sky.

Figure 1 offers a graphic sight of graceful fields and tracks, harmonious pale hues (soft pinks and greens) and a pleasing composition. The effect is almost abstract and the image has no disturbing elements in it. I made a search on Google Maps of the area around the Beeston castle and took photographs of a satellite view (left) and of a frame of the 360° panoramic image shown on Google Maps (right). The first image accentuates the graphic flatness of the original photograph, whereas the second is an atmospheric frame with a high depth of field and a cloudy sky which gives an even deeper perspective.

 

 

The following are five very casual and unpretentious snapshots of New York that I took with my iPhone during a recent trip there. I selected them because they are taken from successively higher points of view: from street level pointing upward to a dizzy-making view on Manhattan taken from a very high floor of a skyscraper building. While the first image shows the gigantic proportions of the building rising before my eyes at a very short distance, the last one is a panoramic sweeping view of the city.

Figure 2 and Figure 3 share some similarities: neither of them has the pleasantness of Figure 1, no natural beauties in them, both show with an objective and cold eye a landscape that has no pretence of being pretty. In Figure 2 we see a rather drab suburban area in the foreground with industrial warehouses and infrastructures, a causeway with trucks, and beyond it tall buildings and non-descriptive low constructions expanding to an horizon of low hills. On top a ribbon of grey sky.

In Figure 3 by John Davies the feeling is even bleaker: before us an industrial desolate area with the four chimneys of the power plant gloomily degrading in scale at the centre. In the foreground bare shrubs, an unattractive parking area with abandoned wastes and sparse cars. In between the parking lot and the power station football teams are playing a game. In the distance no houses or a city, only a dreary hinterland of cooling stations, electricity pylons, artificial channels. The uniformity of the sky is mixed in with the smoke and the smog.

The elevated view that has been chosen offers a full sight of the forlorn lifelessness of such a landscape, subtly underlines it but without dramatic tones: reality is shown for what it is in a documentary style that appears neutral and matter-of-fact. Also Figure 2 shows with its raised vantage point a similar objective, impartial sense of the cityscape ahead.

The power station photograph by John Davies makes me think of a similar Epstein’s image that I have just viewed, Poca High School and Amos Coal Power Plant (2004), which also has footballers playing in front of an industrial plant, but Davies’ look is more distant and cooler, in his image life looks like almost wiped out, a waste from earlier times, while in Epstein’s there is still a certain balance between humans leading their life the best they can and the industrial scape surrounding them.

 

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