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This Pleasant Land, New Photography of the British Landscape – Book Review

Rosalind Jana, Hoxton Mini Press

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

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

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I’ve talked previously about a schism in landscape photography between the ‘traditional’ and the ‘contemporary’. The difference between the search for the beautiful and wild and the pseudo-documentary or post-modern approach which seems to preclude the concept of beauty.

This reductive approach to the range of photography out there has, fortunately, become a little less clear over the last decade. There are many people creating beautiful, traditional landscape photographs with a project-based approach, philosophy or story (etc.), and there are many contemporary photographers who have begun to embrace beauty (or should I say, these photographers are beginning to get recognition where previously they may have not).

Unfortunately, finding photographers that ‘bridge the divide’ is often difficult, and potential viewers on either side of that divide quite often have a look 'over the wall' and quickly retreat once their preconceptions are confirmed.


This is why I was really pleased to discover Hoxton Mini Press’ “This Pleasant Land”. Rosalind Jana, the books author, has chosen a range of photographers that despite living on the contemporary side of the 'wall', create work that is a damn sight more accessible than a lot of contemporary landscape photography (that typically recycles New Topographics ad infinitum or tends more toward social documentary and the alt-architectural).

The work ranges from the more overtly beautiful, classical works from the likes of Paul Hart, Nicholas J R White and Harry Cory Wright to the classically contemporary social landscapes of Simon Roberts and Melanie Friend and the more post-modern landscapes of Jem Southam and Robert Darch to the experimental landscapes of Sarah Pickering and Miriam Nabarro.

But the joy of the book isn’t in further pigeonholing content, it is from absorbing the content with an open mind and discovering for yourself what makes the work what it is. Like most compilations, you probably won’t like all the work within, but if you’ve an open mind, I’m sure you’ll appreciate quite a lot of it, and perhaps it might provide some germ of inspiration for your own work.

So what have I taken from the book? I’ll pick out six photographers that made me think more about the sort of work I want to create.

Robin Friend - Bastard Countryside

Robin’s photographs of the collision of the man made and the natural and the recalamtion of human detritus, are beguiling to me. The images are ugly beautiful. They initially repulse (slightly), especially if you have a classic landscape photographer's desire for beauty. But upon examining them, they grow on you. Perhaps I don’t want to create similar work but I love the upending of expectation and the desire to create strong and compelling compositions from difficult subjects.



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