Jan Zwilling • Capturing Landscape Essence Part I

Techniques of abstraction and ‘essence’ may seem like difficult concepts to apply to photography, but Jan Zwilling explains how these topics are fundamental

Not long ago I attended a lecture and multi-vision show by the renowned German photographer Sandra Bartocha. She presented photographs, videos and stories from her recent project ‘LYS’, a photographic journey through the whole of Scandinavia. This event was a revelation for me, but not in the classic sense that I was stunned by almost every image. In fact, I was more than impressed by the artistic achievement; but the true revelation for me was that the show made me think about some fundamental topics, most noteworthy the notion of ‘essence’ as a goal and a quality of a body of work in landscape photography. Seeking to find and visualise the essence of a landscape has been an explicit aim of the LYS and abstraction was broadly employed to make a single image or a series of images showcasing the very essence of Scandinavia.

In my own work I also often use techniques of abstraction to simplify and focus a photo on particular aspects; and I’ve used the terms ‘essence’ or ‘quintessential’ more than once in titles of my images. I was hooked and started thinking wildly about the connections, contradictions and paradoxes between ...

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