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Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Ian Plant’s landscapes aren’t abstracts and they aren’t entirely literal. Plant uses uniquely photographic techniques and tools to transform the scene, and his images end up going far beyond a documentary shot.

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“Ocotillo Stars.” Stars trace across the sky during an hour-long exposure in the Kofa Mountains, Arizona. A red-filtered flash was used to light the graceful ocotillo branches.

Photographer Ian Plant challenges many of the conventional notions that define landscape photography. Rather than refer to his photographs as landscapes, for example, he uses a different term—one that refers both to a specific body of work, as well as a guiding photographic philosophy: Dreamscapes.

“The concept of Dreamscapes sums up my whole philosophy of photography,” says Plant. “I strive to create images that move beyond the literal, transforming subjects into something unexpected for the viewer by rendering the familiar in an unfamiliar way. I’d like to think that most of my images are Dreamscapes, even if I don’t always refer to them as such.”

Storm’s Eye.” A sandstone formation in the Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona against an advancing storm.
Though Plant isn’t striving for pure abstractions or lyrical interpretations without any connection to recognizable landscape features, he does push the envelope. Finding something beautiful and bringing back a picture isn’t enough—partly from a craving for originality and partly because of his desire to create.

“Many of my images drift into the surreal,” he says, “but not so much as to render them completely Daliesque—not usually, at least. I think it’s important to keep an element of reality, but a purely documentary approach doesn’t much interest me. This may be, in part, a reaction to the intense popularity of nature photography among new digital-camera users. It has become increasingly difficult to find ways to be original.

“I find myself increasingly pushing away from literal interpretations of nature scenes,” he continues. “My move to more abstract photography is also a reaction to the fact that, too often, nature photographers rely on the drama of the scenery to make powerful images. Sure, a beautiful landscape combined with an amazing sunset can make for a stunning photograph, but Mother Nature is doing all the work, and the photographer is merely showing up to record the big event. I prefer to make photographs where I can play a larger role in the creative process. Don’t get me wrong—I still enjoy being there when Mother Nature puts on a show, but I’ll be the first to admit who has really done all the creative work.”


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