on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

In need of a narrative

Concept shouldn't negate aesthetic beauty

Darren Lewey

Darren Lewey is a workshop leader running tours in Spain and Morocco. A photography graduate of Derby College, he worked in the UK as a college lecturer and TV director/cameraman before returning to photographic stills.


If you're reading this then you're probably a disciple of the quest to explore nature in all its forms; hiking, discovering, conquering and escaping into mindfulness. We would argue there's a human need for photographing in these places. We want to sometimes tame them and idealise them, set ourselves a compositional challenge and bend the location to our will. It's about unearthing something unseen, to create surprises, offering a wider acknowledgement that our own way of seeing is unique to us, that we are different. Though perhaps that's not quite enough.

Last autumn I visited Spain, once again in search of wooded scenes making use of the autumnal colours. It was on my list of photographic things to do; always looking for a less well-known location and places that challenge me as a photographer. I found the experience enjoyable and intense at times, which is an ideal state. The subsequent set of photographs produced was also satisfying. However, once the images were in a set, I felt something was missing. Whilst interesting and perhaps pretty, they did not convey to me anything other than the natural forms I had recorded, however skilfully. There was no narrative. There were no layers of meaning.

Mystery in photography is often seen as a sign of artistic endeavour. The more we can ask the viewer to seek an understanding of the image, the longer the image is in their presence, the more successful the photograph. With this in mind, some photographers seek to obfuscate their photographs through processing hoping that this will give them artistic credibility (harking back to Pictorialism perhaps). They imbue mystery, believing it will offer meaning. It's the wrong road and one which I suggest you shouldn't take. Look at the work of the masters such as H.Callahan and E.Weston for guidance on this issue.

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