Hulbert, S. 2012, Photographing the Altered Landscape, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
This practice–led research project is a visual investigation into the artistic, cultural and technological status of altered landscape photography in Australia. The outcome of the research is an exhibition of twelve digital photographic prints that consider the capabilities and limitations of contemporary digital technologies in the practice of altered landscape photography in Australia.
An altered landscape is positioned, for this research project, as one that evidences irrevocable change, the crafting of the land through construction and intervention, a system or process that modifies and results in the making of something new or different from the pre–existing state. This is the land that has been disrupted, been made artificial and different from what is on or above it. Humans mine for the resources needed to create new constructions, settlements and cities, shift the borders of the bush through removal and addition, and alter the environment to change its purpose to suit the expansion of civilisation and the needs of our cultures and economies.
The research investigates fine art landscape photographers from the mid nineteenth century to contemporary times, and aims to identify the conditions under which they photographed, their choices for subject matter, the type of equipment they used, and to assess their influence on the practice of landscape photography. The research also investigated the relationships between certain Australian sites and how these places are situated within ideas of nation, both historical and contemporary. From this, the research established a series of categories for contemporary altered landscape photography in Australia, as a way of seeing the land, and as a way of exploring the land to produce this body of photographic artwork.
Throughout this project it was always my intention to ensure that every fine art photographic print I made responded to the deepest traditions of the photographic medium, while exploring the capability and suitability of digital devices and processes for photographing the Australian altered landscape. As an artist and researcher I am consciously positioning myself and this research from the perspective of the producer, rather than the consumer, from the perspective of reflection on the altered landscape as subject matter, and the ways these technologies are suited to contemporary landscape photography and situated in my practice.
The project was ultimately a photographic study of human geography, of place and of landscape and through the lens of discovering, uncovering and revealing how the landscape is altered by human intervention, it contributes to a new body of knowledge in the field of Australian landscape photography, and a way of approaching and understanding the Australian altered landscape.