The concept of nature today differs from what it was fifty or one hundred years ago. Yet two basic and interlocking properties of nature remain: the physical essence of the natural world, and the unseen forces pulsing in and around that matter...what might be termed 'the forces of nature'. We marvel at its beauty at the same time as we are in awe of its transformative and potentially destructive power. But we are also increasingly aware of man's interference with, and abuse of nature, to the extent that our unfortunate impact on those transformative forces is almost always catastrophic. So, when we photograph nature, a single flower, a landscape seemingly still in harmony with itself, or one clearly altered by man, what are we seeking to show? Seasonal beauty, unexpected change, the interdependence of things, man's too often clumsy footprint?
I would imagine that the vast majority of landscape photographs attempt to capture the grandeur, the beauty of nature and recently, maybe there's a sense that, in doing so, we are also creating an archive of images for posterity in the expectation that what we photograph today may not be there tomorrow, or in a decade, or in one hundred year's time.
The earth as seen from space is always described as a globe of such beauty that it takes one's breath away. Recently, there have been photographers like Jan Arthus Bertrand who have photographed landscapes, mostly those already colonised by man, from above using balloons or light aircraft. Their emphasis has often been to discover how enamoured we are of patterns to give our lives the semblance of order, patterns that often echo nature's own intricate building blocks. And this very individual form of artistic 'mapping' reminds us not only of this planet's diversity but also of man's desire to conquer all of its terrains no matter how inhospitable.
Photographing nature doesn't have to have 'a purpose'. Nevertheless some of the most compelling images taken over the last ten years have been inspired by the need to draw attention to the impact that climate change is already having on our weather and thus on our landscapes. Glaciers melting, floods of such power they wash away people's livelihoods, desertification that wipes out agriculture, etc. Yet, even standing alone on a beach last November and December as dawn came up, which I did quite frequently as I was building a portfolio pf photographs for my exhibition, gave me a strong sense of how intense a communion we can have with 'nature', for I witnessed sunrises that seemed to invent new colours, cloud formations that appeared to reshape the sky, and so many different types of sea from exactly the same spot on the beach that it confirmed what I suppose, subconsciously, I already knew: an infinity of photographs would never do justice to its remarkable metamorphic ability. And for that we should be grateful.