66 DIGITAL SKETCHES ON THE THEME OF TINY LANDSCAPES
The theme is really miniature or minimal landscapes, details of gardens, yet resisting a gardening or botanical genre, intent upon wilderness. The series has its origins in GARDEN PATH (2018) and PLACEHOLDERS (2020), firstly pursuing nature in urban landscape, secondly eluding genres through confined scope. Where GARDEN PATH looked at cultivation more broadly in suburban places, NEARLY NATURE is concerned with mere details of gardening there, with overgrowth, litter and foot traffic. Where PLACEHOLDERS dealt with temporary objects to suburban places and resorted to graphic editing to supplement photography, NEARLY NATURE also appeals to more conspicuous pictorial means in pointing to a garden wilderness. In both cases standard photography could not always escape an established category, sometimes as just poor instance or artful ‘composition’. More was needed than the usual formal vocabulary. As with PLACEHOLDERS, that was mostly a matter of tone, colour and focus or depth of field. Perspective and proportion were preserved, but clearly there remained ample options.
Initially the idea was that pictures would apply traditional landscape perspectives to tiny realms, would more or less provide an insect’s point of view. The pictures would still trade in notable distance, an accompanying sense of scale and atmosphere by hour or season, but now at an unusually low level. The point would be how far or how much the conventions held across a drastic reduction in scale, how wide the genre stretched or snapped at picture or object. As the series progressed however, I became aware of another aspect, another link with prior work. OBLIQUE HOUSING (2019) had dealt in aerial perspectives to urban landscapes, and particularly as rendered on a long lens, compressing perspective into an oblique projection and bringing with it associations of surveillance and tacit oppression in recent times. NEARLY NATURE then acquired something of a counterpart, a worm’s eye view as opposed to a bird’s eye vantage point. With that, the series subtly brings with it a sense of concealment or evasion. This may seem far-fetched or comical, except that NEARLY NATURE was produced during the second year of the Covid pandemic and under an onerous local lockdown. Although not setting out to reflect this very difficult situation, I am not surprised at the deeper undertone.
NB – I have dispensed with sub-pages for variations on a composition again, making for a longer, hopefully not-too-monotonous main page.
More notes at bottom of page
The series took a while because of technical difficulties, the weather and restricted public access. Something I had not anticipated was the limited focus or depth of field available to my camera when working at such close range. In the end I borrowed a mobile phone and was astonished at the quality from such a tiny lens. Up until that point I had been labouring with several manual focuses for every composition (including a macro-zoom option) on my (aging) digital cameras. The phone images were large JPGs – I would have preferred RAW files but I’m not sure that was an option on the (old) Samsung Android at my disposal. At any rate the phone, once the rudiments were mastered, sped up the project considerably. It did not allow me access to certain locations under Lockdown or under the weather conditions I would have preferred, but the time spent on my knees, torturing shoes and trousers was gratefully reduced.
Finally, over the pandemic period (so far), I had been reading a lot of Japanese and Chine poetry (in translation) with its accent on seasonal events and arch social allusion. Some of this surely directed my attention to condensed contemplation and the value of discretion