The View from Here at the National Portrait Gallery brings together landscape photographs from the 1840s to the present day, depicting an extensive range of processes, styles and locations.
It explores the rich history of landscape photography with 70 works from the permanent collection of photographs at the National Galleries of Scotland. The photographs displayed reflect contemporary attitudes to travel, technology and environmental concerns.
The exhibition begins in the 1840s, with the invention of photography and steam travel. Photographers were now capable of voyaging further afield to capture sights which before were only read about by those in Britain who could not afford to travel.
As such, the photographs in this section of the exhibition depict iconic landscapes such as Platt Babbitt’s ‘Tourists Viewing Niagara Falls from Prospect Point’ in 1855, and Francis Frith’s ‘The Great Pyramid and the Sphinx’ of 1858.
The viewer is then confronted with a new style of photography that emerged after 1888. With the invention of the Kodak camera, which made photography accessible to all, many photographers wished to retrieve the reputation of photography as art.
Photographs of this time were imbued with a beautifully painterly quality, reminiscent of Romantic landscape painting from the early 19th Century. This is evident in the photographs by Peter Henry Emerson, James Craig Annan, and Félix Thiollier, whose work has been newly acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland and is on display for the first time.
One particular highlight of the exhibition is Alfred Buckham’s ‘Aerial View of Edinburgh’ in 1920. Hung by itself, the viewer’s eye is drawn to this piece.
Its strong contrast of dark and light creates a dramatic and striking photograph. Buckham often combined different negatives into one photograph and even hand-painted some elements, as he does in this piece.
This concept of modifying the landscape is explored in the last part of the exhibition. With advancements in technology, artists can now digitally alter their photographs, removing and adding elements to their work.
This reflects the environmental concerns of man altering nature. Sze Tsung Leong’s ‘Horizons’ series is captivating in capturing diverse landscapes that have the same horizon line, which when placed side by side, create an infinite landscape. Michael Reisch’s work is of further intrigue. In his large-scale Highland landscape photograph, Reisch has digitally erased any trace of man-made structures in order to return the view to its initial condition.
The sense of progression and development here, created through its chronological approach, makes it very successful. It highlights a shift from photos that revel in nature’s grandeur, to an exploration of man’s influence over it, as well as outlining the technological developments.
The vast and diverse collection of photographs on display in The View from Here makes it definitely worth a visit.
The View from Here
National Portrait Gallery
Until 30 April 2017
Photo credit: Dun Deagh