on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Changing Perceptions in Landscape Photography

Adopting behaviours and strategies that support real stories about the landscape

Shannon Kalahan

Shannon is based out of the New England region of the United States. Her photographic journey began in 2002 while volunteering for an animal rescue. She has since built a successful business as a landscape, wedding and newspaper photographer, author and educator.


Even beyond the realm of documentary photography, there is a commonly held perception that photographs are linked to the ideas of truth and accuracy. For some, photography is a medium meant to record moments objectively, regardless of the subject matter or intention of the photographer. In the landscape photography world, this conversation often involves heated debates surrounding the merits of editing techniques. There are strong opinions on both sides about how much editing is too much, and when or if we should use labels such as “digital art”. Compromise is found by allowing each person to draw their own line in the sand, not forcing any particular belief system on someone else, and being truthful about artistic choices. That being said, there is a glaring dilemma in the photography world that rarely gets mentioned. It begins well before we open our computers or tablets. In fact, it begins the moment we pick up the camera.

As a society, we have been conditioned to expect true-to-life images in photography, and there is condemnation of processes viewed as excessive. However, there is seldom any acknowledgement of the fact that photos are inherently imprecise, as every photograph incorporates elements of personal interpretation. Susan Sontag described it succinctly in On Photography, a collection of essays released in 1977, when she wrote, “Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience. … Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.”   

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