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55. Octubre-desembre 17
Quarterly Newsletter of the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia

Photography and landscape

Clara Nubiola

I remember the day. It's been a few years now —I hope this does not sound like a story told by someone who has white hair and a stick— since I studied the third year at university. Among the elective courses of the second semester there was, finally, photography.

He presented himself and started talking.

Forget about all the images you have in your head.

Forget about how you want to impress.

Forget about perfect photography.

First you should learn how to observe.

On the table, there were black cards of the size of a sheet of paper, and a glass jar with ten or fifteen cutters.

On each card, we drew a rectangle of ten by fifteen centimetres using a pencil.

Then we cut it out. A photograph-sized hole stood out from the black cardboard.

Look. Can you see it? From now on and for the next few days, these will be your cameras.

Holding the card with one hand and at a prudent distance from the eye, we started to observe. Each movement, each gesture, was a possibility.

That hole made you exclude things. It made you choose.

None of the cameras that we may have used up until then showed the multiple possibilities of the landscape like that piece of card, the permanent election, the subtleness in what is chosen or discarded.

Preconceptions of the eye were bypassed, the eye that directs the viewfinder towards its objective without inspecting the surroundings. With that piece of card there were no specific objectives, other than those of exploring and discovering new landscapes. The piece of card moved freely, without being biased, and the territory appeared to be infinite.

The eye educated itself. And the mind, captured its "perfect photographs".

And this is how one day we all arrived to the class with our shiny, immaculate, duplicated, Canon F10.

Ready to shoot.

Who? What?


Who? What? He asked, once again.

I went out on to the street and toured my nearby landscapes, with the inevitable tension of a hunter; looking, waiting, selecting, deciding the moment, and click.

Shoot, shoot, shoot.

The rolls of film filled up. And we were convinced that are pictures were successful. I remember our first day at the lab, our faces.

The failed negatives, blurred photos, overexposure… and, above all, that strange feeling that the landscape, which I imagined to be still, "capturable", tame, had escaped. None of the things I thought I had captured were there in those photographs. None of them.

The landscape, the defector, was about to tell me that it was not that photograph nor any other, in fact. It offered itself as a possibility, as a subjective vision, as a temporary election, as a part that has been lived…but capturable, no. Capturable was not the word.

Photography taught me —and here and now, dear, I apologise for the pictures I take with my phone today— that a click is not just a click. That photography is vision, narration, sense, feeling.

Yes, and also work, a lot of work.

Photography, landscape, continue dancing.

We will keep observing you.

2014 Observatori del Paisatge
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