Exercise 3.1

Reflecting on the picturesque

Write a short reflective account of your own views on the picturesque (around 300 words ).
Consider how the concept of the picturesque has influenced your own ideas about landscape art, and in particular your ideas about what constitutes an effective or successful landscape photograph.

LP&E, p.102

[25Jan22] The thrust of Part 3 to this point is that Gilpin’s notion of the picturesque is a superficial, idealised, chocolate-box fantasy that his distorted visitors’ perception of unfamiliar places.

Tauris (quoted in Wells, 2011, p.56, quoted in LPE,p.96) describes the tourist photograph as “act of colonisation”.
Fay Godwin (interviewed on the South Bank Show, quoted in LPE, p.98) objects to the picturesque, as exemplified in the tourist postcard, which “idealises the country in a very unreal way” and, while purporting to portray the natural rural experience, actually deny the consumers (the holidaymaker and the recipient) and knowledge of its true nature.

The growth of the colonising, tourist gaze, through commonplace, inexpensive travel has extended this to a worldwide scale and has (writing in January 2022, at least until the onset of Covid, and now might again) encouraged and reinforced attitudes, mindsets and experiences borne of privileged, sanitised holidays.

That said, as commented in my course notes, this can be considered a snobbish, elitist and patronising view. Holidays for the working classes were a hard-won entitlement (see Walton, 1981 and 2005) and requiring that they should be educated about local political issues, or even denying the opportunity to send a postcard home when on vacation might be considered doctrinaire.

A photographer is entitled to make and market superficial local images. A photographer is equally entitled to document the realities of rural life and the effects of modern society on the countryside and its inhabitants in an effort to publicise its vicissitudes, and Fay Godwin was exemplary in doing the latter. The freedom to choose is to be welcomed.

276 words


LPE Exc 3.1 References

Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Walton, JK. “The Demand for Working-Class Seaside Holidays in Victorian England.” The Economic History Review 34, no. 2 (1981): 249–65. [online]. doi.org. Available from https://doi.org/10.2307/2595245 [Accessed 25 January 2022].

Walton, JK. (2005) review of Susan Barton’s Working-Class Organisations and Popular Tourism, 1840–1970, (review no. 458) [online]. history.ac.uk. Available from https://reviews.history.ac.uk/review/458 [Accessed 25 January 2022]