on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Thomas Peck’s Critiques

What is the role of the figure in a landscape photograph?

Thomas Peck

The real pleasure of photography is that it forces me to slow down and really look. That’s never easy in our rushed world, so a chance to stop, look and see is truly valuable.


If our reading of a picture is based on a literal, descriptive level, then the inclusion of a figure in the landscape has a very simple function: it is there to suggest a sense of scale. The figure acts as a basic juxtaposition between a known height/size and the rest of the content of the image. However, if a photograph is also to be read on a more metaphorical level, then the inclusion of a figure suddenly becomes much more interesting. It overlays the image with suggested meaning. Take Chris Miller’s striking image of an ice cave in Alaska. Here, clearly the figure of the person does define scale – we recognise the size and drama of the ice cave. But on top of that, as metaphor, the image creates questions about the ecological role of humans in the landscape. There is even a sense that it raises thoughts about nature of humans as individuals in the face of awesome nature…


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