Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Scott Mansfield’s black-and-white landscape photography shows how soft tonality and a quiet approach can be every bit as strong as big, high-contrast imagery
Unlike many contemporary landscape photographers, Mansfield's work is a study in subtlety. The more time a viewer spends with an image, the more each image reveals. Rather than gripping the viewer with grand drama, Mansfield's photographs invite viewers to spend time exploring inside their borders. And that's just how the photographer likes it.
"I'm less interested in getting a pretty postcard scenic," he says, "and more interested in letting you know how I was feeling. I'm interested in putting as much of myself into the work as possible. My wife recently summed it up: There's a similar theme that runs through all of my work that speaks to who I am; it doesn't necessarily speak to what the place is.
"You often hear," Mansfield says, "especially from color landscape photographers, 'This is exactly what I saw, I didn't manipulate it, and that's what you're seeing on the print.' And I've always felt, I don't care what you saw! I want to know what you felt—manipulate the hell out of it! For me, it's the end product; your piece of art should show what it was that you were feeling, what you were seeing in your own mind's eye, not necessarily what was there in reality. Sometimes they match, but oftentimes they don't have to. This need in photography to defend that you didn't manipulate it—you hear that so much it's just like nails on a chalkboard. I think they're missing the point. That's not what I think art is."
"It's artistic manipulation," says Mansfield, "and I think black-and-white is a little more accepting of manipulation than color. You get rid of all that color information and you get it down to just the basic two tones with the gray tonal scale, and it's visually okay to make a sky go black. But if you do it in a color landscape and make the sky go purple or red...eww."
Mansfield may embrace creative manipulation, but that's not to say his photographs are unreal. After all, the very act of framing a composition is an abstraction of reality. The artist simply imbues images with added meaning. Mansfield does this through reduction.
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