There are many myths surrounding the art of photography. None more dishonest than the term ‘the camera cannot lie’. The camera has been telling porkies and perpetuating myths since it’s invention in the early 1800s.
One group of artists that should be singled out for special mention, are landscape photographers. This group are the true myth makers. They have been undermining and distorting the nation’s psyche, since before Boots stated a print service.
Armed with their walking boots, carbon tripods and camera backpacks, they systematically scour the landscape looking for evidence of ‘England’s green & pleasant land’. With their selective framing, slow shutter speeds and graduated tobacco filters, they have created a fictitious utopia, fit for an Enid Blyton novel.
Before you leap to their defence with the, ‘well they are not doing any harm, it keeps them fit, and what’s wrong with a bit of escapism’ argument, let me stop you there. The world has entered the Age of Anthropocene. A time when human activity has started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems. If we are going to reverse these ill effects, what we need now is a healthy dose of realism. Just because a landscape is green, doesn’t make it natural.
Seen from the air, we see evidence of intensive agriculture. We see uplands stripped bare of natural vegetation, by sheep and deer. Huge swathes of land, are manicured to support grouse shooting. Most alarmingly, it is what we don’t see, that should cause us the most concern. Even in our national parks there is a complete lack of bio diversity. We are creating a desert.
Where is England’s green & pleasant land?