on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Art of Adventure – Bruce Percy

Book reviews

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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When I started my photographic journey about five or six years ago, the first photographers to make an impact on me were mostly the usual suspects, Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, Colin Prior and a couple of others, all because of their book publications. Then there were the websites that I found as I browsed around and one of these had a particularly magnetic attraction. Bruce's Scotland work stood out as having a particularly unique character. The combination of high contrast, peal light on the hills and his wonderful Glen Orchy details led to a series of holidays in the Scotland area and my subsequent love for Scotland convinced my family to buy me a photography course in Harris where I met Richard Childs, Gerry Gavigan and David Ward and succumbed to the Dark Slide.

Bruce has kept that unique visual style but instead of using it as a crutch he has worked the edges of it, creating new work in new locations and subsequently inspiring more followers through his workshops and writing (not many people were writing content about photography at the time and definitely not many writing about the art of photography).

So when I heard that Bruce was creating a portfolio book I was very keen to get my hands on one to see how he was going to distill the last twenty years into a hundred or so page, a task of curation that must have been very difficult - to reject so many great photographs.

The result is quite surprising. Despite the majority of Bruce's work being definitely of the romantic landscape genre, a lot of the images in the book are environmental portraits taken in various third world countries (India, Nepal, Cambodia, Ethiopia and South America). The combination sounds like it shouldn't work, particularly as the locations for portraits and landscapes are mostly unconnected. However, taken as an aesthetic combination rather than a documentary commentary the portraits with their rich and contrasty feel do connect and the result doesn't jar like it sounds it should. The portraits provide a great juxtaposition of warmth in a book that could have ended up just a little too blue if it would have only included landscape photographs which have a predominantly blue/magenta look of the pre-sunrise or post-sunset light that reflects Bruces favourite conditions and use of the incredible Fuji Velvia film.

Although I'm not a big fan of the portrait genre, I can still recognise a great photograph when I see it and some of these are stunning, particularly the Lalibela priest, Baktapur Girl and Praying Buddhist monk. I must admit to having a little discomfort at the poverty tourism that seems to be very popular in travel photography at the moment, the thought of rich westerners capturing the ravaged faces of the poor doesn't seem right somehow. I'm sure Bruce's approach is a lot more empathic than most visitors however and the results are definitely beautiful.

Each of the 40 photographs is accompanied by a short essay and occasionally a supporting picture (with echos of "First Light" in places - in a good way!). The writing is typically eloquent and with enough interest to keep the page flipping to a minimum. Bruce typically writes about his experiences with the locations, his thoughts about how his photography has developed and the occasional technical details. My only real regret is that I would love to have seen more new work but this probably says more about how well I know his current portfolio than anything else.

Bruce should be justifiably proud of this creation and it comes with a preface written by landscape photography luminary Michael Kenna, a photographer with a similar taste in simplicity. You can buy Bruce's book direct from his website.

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