The Beautiful, the Sublime and the Natural

So the second year of my FdA starts with a big project, for which we (my class) were given a live brief. It was asked of us that we come up with ANYTHING under the header of ‘In Sickness and in Health’. The final images would then get exhibited, if appropriate, on the walls of the RD&E Hospital Wonford in Exeter. For this project i really didn’t know what I was looking for. It is often the case when you get a somewhat broad brief, with a specific title, that I don’t often come up with a hundred and one ideas. I did come up with one though.

I was trawling the web, as many students do at the beginning of a project, and I came across a short excerpt from an essay that was posted on the University of St Andrew, unfortunately I cannot link to said article as upon my last visit the excerpt had been removed. The essay was about ‘romantic landscapes’. A phrase that kept coming up was ‘the sublime’, a term I had never come across before. I looked into its meaning and connotations, and to my excitement I discovered that it first originated in the late 18th century. In its essence it means ‘The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation.’

This idea of the sublime lead me to the magnum photos site. They had a series of images, titled ‘We are so Small. This series included work from Mark Power, Elliott Erwitt, Burt Glinn and Hiroji Kubota. I looked at these photographs for their aesthetic quality, as something to aspire to in my own work. Jean Gaumy was another interesting photographer to look at, his work and Kubota’s capture a struggle between man and nature, and this was my starting point.

The surrounding area of the town I live in, Axminster, is a large flood plain situated in the Axe Valley. It has been a subject of many news articles for its succeptibility to flooding. For me a town built on a floodplain represents man’s struggle with nature, for example the town was built there for the water supply, and since it’s founding the town has always been threatened by the rising water levels. To capture this I took my medium format film camera out into one of the many fields that flood, and took some landscape photographs. I spent a lot of time composing the image, I wanted the frame to comprise mainly of sky, with a few cows in the foreground. The cows represent man and farming, and the sky, nature.

I produced a few photographs for this set, which you can see at www.jopethybridge.com

After more research I began looking at how to personalize the work more, so I went into my comfort zone a little bit with some night photography. I looked at the work of Ori Gersht, Nadav Kander, Sophie Ricketts and Rut Blees Luxemburg. Shooting at night is what I really enjoy doing, so it only made sense for me to take advantage of that. I took a range of frames in one night of various different ideas, I wanted to capture the surroundings a little bit more to get an idea of the environment, the colours and shapes in the landscape.

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