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.
“Artists should impose their vision on the scene,” Plant says, “not the other way around. I’m always looking for ways to create an image, rather than just record one. I achieve this by finding ways to use the camera, my lenses and other accessories, as well as alternative lighting and perspectives, to transform how the viewer might otherwise see the scene, presenting something new and surprising. Neutral-density, graduated neutral-density and polarizing filters are essential for extending exposures to help create a surreal look. It helps as well to view the elements of a scene as abstractions. I’m not photographing a rock or a waterfall, but rather an abstract shape that needs to relate to other shapes in the image. The ability to see beyond the literal is absolutely essential to the creative process.
“Another way to transform a scene,” he continues, “is, ironically, to relinquish control of the process. Using ND filters to achieve long exposures is a good example. When you slow your shutter speed down to several minutes, you lose control over how the image will look. But injecting a healthy dose of chaos into the image-making process is a good thing because chaos is the lifeblood of art. It all starts with letting go and seeing what happens.”
Listening to Plant talk about pushing the boundaries of traditional landscapes, it would be easy to misread his passion for restlessness. He’s not tired of tradition; quite the opposite. He simply wants to take a more active and engaged role as a creator.
One of Plant’s favorite subjects is the landscape after dark. Challenging though it may be, it affords him the opportunity to be creative in the camera and surprise himself—and his viewers—by creating something out of the ordinary.
“Night work takes a lot of planning,” he says. “It can be very difficult to get the right look, and it’s hard to predict what will emerge after several minutes—or hours—of exposure. Using flash allows me to control which parts of the scene get illuminated. I use flash, flashlights, lanterns or other artificial light sources to illuminate the landscape, sometimes using colored gel filters to play with color contrasts.
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