Published in July 1997 by Zoom America Inc.
questions were not published.
People do not appear in your photos - why?
The presence of people dominate my urban and landscape scenes. The
subject of my photographs are the products of humans and my images
are very much about what people do to our landscape environment. For
most of us, we will be remembered for what we have achieved in our
lives, what example we have set or what we have made or created. Most
of us will not be remembered for our dress or appearance. So, for
me, it is not necessary to show what people look like but rather to
show what people do, what we produce and how we change and effect
the environments in which we live. I am well aware of the potency
of images of people and, where ever possible, I do wait to include
people in my landscape scenes.
Why Black and White and which lens do you use the most?
I find colour to be a distraction. We all enjoy colour because of
it's tactile and sensuous qualities. The impact of colour can be too
dominant - one can be so easily seduced by the way colour can create
abstractions within an image. I enjoy sensuous distractions as much
as anyone but the qualities of colour can often detract too much from
the image/subject for me. It is also much easier for me to control
the contrast, tonal range and fine grain structure of a B&W image
! I always use a wide angle lens to create panoramas. Where one can
capture the relationship between features in the landscape - to show
how human structures inter-relate within the context of their surroundings.
Which are the main differences between urban and landscape photography
in Europe and USA ? Tell about short history of this kind of photography
in GB ?
Like many other contemporary landscape artists and photographers
working in Britain I have been influenced by both American photographers
and the European traditions of poetic social realism and surrealism.
It is difficult to compare landscape photography between Europe and
USA - they have both influenced one another. One could say that American's
tend to be more concerned with pictorial elements than with social
elements - Europeans tend to understate where Americans heighten and
exaggerate the features of the landscape - American landscape photographers
are more self reflective in seeing images while Europeans are more
content at looking and examining the external reality. Sweeping generalisations
like these are misleading and one could find many examples of where
the opposite is true. The most notable photographers in both continents
are individuals who realise the truths and realities of their own
When I was a student, it was contemporary American landscape photography
which was so influential in it's clarity of vision. In part, this
was because the best photography books were produced in the USA. Now,
the reverse is true. Within the last 15 years or so, in Britain and
in other parts of Europe, their has been a rediscovery and encouragement
in landscape photography and art. New ways of seeing the landscape
have emerged with a rich variety of forms and styles that are relevant,
fascinating and challenging.
What do you want people to read in your photos ?
At a basic level all photographs are documents and I enjoy the knowledge
that people will bring their own experience and interpretation of
a view I have chosen. A fundamental aspect of landscape is the sense
of power it can symbolise and evoke. Images of land, water and sky
can become metaphors which reflect our emotional and spiritual states.
But the landscape can also represent power in terms of land ownership
and material wealth. It is this dual and often ambiguous representation
of the metaphysical and the material in the landscape that I wish
to reveal. My work is about observing the social and industrial transformations
on the landscape and I wish to celebrate as well as question the forces
of change on our environment.
How do you develop a project ?
When I am asked to work on a landscape project it is normally for
art or cultural organisations. I very rarely work directly for industry
as I wish to explore both the negative and positive aspects of industrial
development. My basic approach to photographing the landscape comes
initially from a social and documentary perspective and most of my
assignments or commissions are linked to an exhibition and/or publication
relating to a specific geographic area. I develop an approach to understanding
the landscape by first researching the topography and recent (industrial)
history of an area. Within this analytical documentary framework I
try to make images that go beyond being purely factual.
© John Davies 1997
Images may not be reproduced in any form or by any
means without the permission of John Davies
Photo and material Copyright © John Davies 1976-2011