Twenty-five years ago, photographers Charlie Waite and Sue Bishop joined forces to launch Light and Land, a photography tour company that offered budding photographers professional-led courses all around the world. Things were very different in 1993 when Waite and Bishop first set out. Photographers could still be found hunched over in the darkroom and digital photography was only just becoming popular. Now, new techniques and technologies provide more creative options than ever before.
In a new exhibition, Light and Land is examining the way that landscape photography has changed over the course of the company’s lifetime. The exhibition, which takes place from 18-22 July at the OXO Gallery in London, celebrates the work of 20 Light and Land tour leaders and features a wide variety of styles, techniques and locations, from the rugged Scottish coastline to the freezing shores of Greenland.
Bishop is a landscape photographer at heart, but she also specialises in close-up flower photography and it’s such flower images that viewers can expect to see from her section of the exhibition. The images come from a trip to the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. For eight weeks in spring these gardens, 32 hectares in size, bloom with more than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. ‘Keukenhof is one of my favourite tours, you just can’t go wrong there,’ she says. ‘Thousands and thousands of tulips of every colour.’
It wasn’t spring, but rather a wintry walk that first opened Bishop’s eyes to the power of flower photography. ‘I was out photographing in February,’ she says. ‘It was a frosty morning and I was looking for frosty subjects. All the crocuses were wilted but there was one standing up with frost on, so I lay down flat on the ground and photographed it and you could see every crystal of ice on the petals. Walking past I doubt if you’d even notice [such detail].’
Though not as abstract as some of the other photographs (the work of Valda Bailey, in particular, bends traditional rules by bridging the gap between fine art and photography), Bishop has become more willing over the years to play with camera techniques to create a less naturalistic style.
Modern techniques are also part of daily life for another exhibitor, Adrian Beasley. He teaches students to use software such as Photoshop and Lightroom and specialises in black and white photos that benefit most from heavy editing. He is a firm advocate of the creativity that software offers. ‘People are spending more and more time on their computers editing,’ he says. ‘Not necessary in a negative way but in a more creative way. It opens up new possibilities.’
Beasley’s main photograph for the exhibition features the Valley of Rocks, a steep-sided vale near his home in north Devon. Though the day in question was dark and cloudy he caught the valley as beams of light broke through the clouds. ‘They weren’t particularly intense but it was an opportunity for me to use software to bring that out. I took an image and enhanced those natural things.’
For others, creativity still rests solely with the pointing and shooting side of things. Paul Sanders, a photographer who leads tours to Puglia, New York and Albania, shuns computer-based editing, opting to use long exposures to practice what he calls ‘mindful photography’ and create images inspired by his favourite painters.
Ben Osborne, another tour leader, who is exhibiting photos from Knoydart in Scotland, as well as from New Zealand and Greenland, thinks that it’s the immediacy of digital photography that has lead to a new wave of creativity.
‘In a way, technical change has given us a creative change in its wake,’ he says. ‘With the digital medium you can do something, such as waving the camera around – what we call “intentional camera movement” – and then immediately see what works and what doesn’t. You can learn a lot more quickly, rather than having to wait a week for the film to be developed.’
Light and Land provides a platform for these creative changes in all their different forms. As well as traditional landscapes there are urban and architectural photos, fine art photography and abstract images. Photographers working in 2018 have many more tools than those that set out in 1993 and this is an exhibition designed to celebrate precisely that.
The Light and Land exhibition will take place from 18-22 July at the Oxo Gallery, London. Free entry. For more information go to www.oxotower.co.uk/events/light-and-land
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