Exercise 3b: Elevated Viewpoints Photography

Initially I found this task difficult as I was frustrated with my inability to access so many elevated viewpoints. A coffee with a friend who works as a grip in movies challenged my preconceptions of what constituted an elevated viewpoint and gave me the kick I needed. Continue reading “Exercise 3b: Elevated Viewpoints Photography”

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Exercise 3: Elevated Viewpoints

Derek Trillo’s The Cheshire Plain from Beeston Castle (2008) uses an elevated viewpoint to create an abstract landscape photograph. By choosing to remove the horizon and look down upon the landscape gives a map-like perspective to the image. In Trillo’s image, this effect is not complete as the trees remain vertical and their shadows can be seen rather than looking  like green blobs where only the leafy canopy is visible as they would appear to be if we were looking perpendicular to the plane ground. Had the image been taken from ground level, it would have been dominated by the trees and bushes visible and Trillo would not have been able to achieve the patchwork effect seen.

Similarly, Peter Mansell has chosen to use an elevated perspective across a city or town to achieve the effect of a general survey. There is a much greater sense of space compared to if the image had been taken from ground level where the view would have been obstructed by buildings, people and cars. The elevated view makes the city or town seem relatively serene compared to the bustle of busy streets.

Using elevated viewpoints appears to homogenise landscapes that can be very chaotic on a local level. There is usually an increased sense of space if the horizon is included in the view. It seems to me that within society, elevated viewpoints often have an association with the divine. My impression of Christianity is of a God that sits up high, looking down. Status can be conferred by seating position, for instance Judges usually sit higher than defendants and boxes at theatres were traditionally above the level of the stage.

I was able to see John Davies Agecroft Power Station, Salford (1983) at Towner Gallery in Eastbourne. It was one of the first images to catch my attention in the A Green & Pleasant Land Photography Exhibition (before I noticed it in the OCA coursework) as it was an impressively large print and the viewer was left feeling as though they were looking out onto the view. The row of stacks dominate the initial viewing and it is only when you look more closely at the foreground that you notice the cars and football match. Including these elements in the foreground allows Davies to show the scale of the Agecroft Power Station chimneys. The chimneys in this image overwhelm the landscape but the football game played in the shadow of the towers humanises the image. Where the image could be bleak and remote, the fact that there is a match right next to them shows that there are those who’s lives are overshadowed by the towers. The inclusion of the footballers also heightens the sense of scale as otherwise the only clear reference points for scale would be the trees and cars in the foreground. As they are so much closer to the camera, alone they will not act as good reference points.