Category Archives: Assignment 4

The category containing all posts for assignment 4.

Assignment 4 – Critical research – Final submission

Banner image from the game Skyrim developed by @Bethesda Game Studios

The brief

Write a 2,000-word essay (excluding any quotes) on one of the areas of landscape
practice you have encountered during this course so far.
The critical review is an opportunity for you to gain a greater insight into an area, theme, debate or other issue relating to landscape photography that is of particular interest to you. You must choose a topic that’s relevant to your own practice in some way, in order to help you to contextualise your practice and to show that your understanding of landscape photography is informed by relevant practitioners. You should include an in depth evaluation of the work of key practitioners that you reference in your essay. Where appropriate, also reference your own individual images, bodies of work and ongoing or forthcoming projects.
Your written work should clearly show that you have engaged with theoretical, historical and cultural debates around landscape practice within photography and visual culture, and demonstrate that you have developed academically as well as creatively.
To sum up, your critical review should demonstrate that you can:
• understand relevant topics and issues around landscape practice
• use research skills competently
• analyse appropriate resources
• articulate your own, informed ideas at a level commensurate with HE5 level study.
Remember to include:
• correctly cited references and quotations (Harvard referencing system)
• referenced illustrations
• word counts, both excluding and including quotations.
Finally, make sure that your essay is critical rather than narrative. This means that you should focus your efforts on evaluating, comparing, contrasting and questioning the work and theoretical ideas, and not on recounting biographical or historical information, unless it has a significant relation to practice.

The brief

Introduction

This blog entry is my response to the assessment brief above. I describe my approach to the essay; the essay itself and a discussion of how well I think I fulfilled the brief.

I have supporting blog entries:

  • Background research can be seen here.
  • The rationale for the selection of essay topic can be seen here and here).
  • My initial submission (here) and tutor feedback (here)

Approach

Having identified the topic and the question that I wanted to address I brainstormed the areas that I felt I needed to research and an approximate breakdown of words to different sections (see below).

I then performed research using the UCA library and ResearchGate as a means to find primary sources. I followed up with additional Internet resources and references. I collected interesting articles and facts in my electronic notebook. The relevant PDF extracts are here:

I then structured my essay using bullet points which also gave me an more detailed indication of the number of words in the essay and allowed me to adjustment. In order to progress I made assumptions about house style e.g. bullet points and headings allowed that the essay should conform to. Ideally knowing where the essay is to be published would have provide guidance on style. I then filled out bullet points to create a draft version of the essay. I reread this version and also asked my wife to check for readability and typo’s. I then checked the total number of words in the essay, excluding quotes and references and found this to be under two thousand. As a final check I used a plagiarism check program (Plagiarism Checker | 100% Free and Accurate – Duplichecker.com) to ensure that I had not inadvertently copied text. The reports indicated no plagiarism.

After submitting to my tutor I received a very helpful feedback. I subsequently updated the essay addressing the points that had been raised. Specifically I removed detail text concerning the background and context and added additional details to artistic intent.

Essay

PDF version

Why bother taking photos outside?

Can manufactured digital landscapes make more successful images than traditional landscape photographs?

In this essay I will try to answer the question of whether manufactured landscape images are, or might soon become, more successful than traditional landscape photographs. I will explore the contemporary digital landscape world with reviews of current exponents in order to give context; I consider how the manufactured landscape world might evolve; I develop a framework for judging the success of visual art and in particular landscapes and finally form a conclusion to the question I pose.

The contemporary digital landscape world

Since the evolution of digital technologies, computers, smart-phones, and digital cameras we have an ever-increasing number of options to create images through a variety of digital means. Alongside this capability we now have various possibilities to manipulate the image, ranging from nearly no manipulation to completely manufactured (for an overview see (Alexander, 2015)). In this essay we will be focussing on the completely manufactured images, or nearly so, particularly those that aspire to be photorealistic images.

In the digital world the art of creating manufactured images may be referred to as CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) or Digital Art or CG (Computer Graphics). There are no universally-agreed definitions and the terms have a large overlap (Digital art – Art Term | Tate, n.d.; Computer-generated imagery, n.d.) so that we will treat them as synonymous.  Below are a few examples of representative work from these areas.  

(Click to expand)

Artistic Intent

In the images above a number of common themes can be seen regarding the artist’s intent: Portrayal of an idealised, often sublime landscape; humans or human objects playing a secondary role, often being present to give scale to the glorious landscape; there is often a feeling of a hyperrealism, which is a significant trend in modern popular landscape photography. The images are simple in the sense that they do not contain ambiguity; the viewer is left enjoying the scene, perhaps being amazed that it is not real but that is all, which some may find unsatisfactory. This general lack of sophistication, I would argue, is primarily because of the novelty of the approach.

Manufactured images have become commonplace in certain areas, particularly computer games and cinema where there are strong commercial pressures to produce environments that are exciting, realistic, and immersive to the viewer. The primary function of many of these images is as a backdrop where characters (real or created) act out their roles, rather than the landscape providing the focus. Individual created images tend to concentrate on the aesthetic, with little other engagement for the viewer.

There are, however, some notable exceptions to the focus on the simple aesthetic (e.g. Halso, n.d.; Joan Fontcuberta – 114 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy, n.d.)). There are a few competitions (CGMood, CGTrader) for artists in this field, and some online fora for display of images (e.g. CGTrader, Behance). With time I think more creativity and a wider artistic intent will develop.

How are such images created? 

Cameras themselves can be used to manipulate images, from simple operations such as adjusting contrast or colour to overlaying of multiple images to fabricate a new view (Smith, n.d.; Stanley, 2020). With the use of tools such as Photoshop, existing landscape photographs can be manipulated almost beyond recognition, with the final image looking unrealistic, hyper-realistic or even altered but realistic.  To create photorealistic landscapes from scratch in two or even three dimensions, several tools are already available, primarily aimed at sophisticated users. (7 great ways to create CG landscapes, 2014).

There are also emerging business models where landscape environments and elements can be bought and sold, e.g., CGTrader, Turbosquid or 3DExport. Images can also be seen in popular photo sharing sites such as Flickr or ViewBug

A giant gorilla swinging from the Empire State Building in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and the entire world of Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar, would have been impossible to produce without CGI (computer-generated imagery)—which utilizes computer graphics to create or enhance special visual effects. Often, magical movie moments come to mind when people think of CGI, but did you know that the process has been implemented in the art world for over 50 years? 

(Hochberger, 2020)

The art market as a whole has not yet broadly embraced manufactured images, see for example the number of digital works in Artsy compared to other genres. In fact, the art market generally is rather slow in embracing new technology opportunities, although through the Covid epidemic it has shifted more online (The Contemporary Art Market Report 2020, 2020).

How the manufactured landscape world might evolve

As CGI technology develops, this will inevitably result in the increased use of these tools, which will in turn have an impact on the visual art ecosystem. There are, however, a number of open questions. We will discuss these points in turn.

It is fairly certain that in the near future the tools will become easier to use, becoming more accessible to more people. They will become more intelligent and increasingly relieve the user of more mundane tasks. A similar development can be seen in the digital camera itself. A sense of the direction of change can be seen by considering GauGAN, an AI tool from NVIDA (Salian, 2019; NVIDIA’s AI Can Turn Doodles into Landscape ‘Photos’, 2019), which is capable of taking simple drawn sketches and creating high quality images.

Example of doodle being converted into a photorealistic landscape (Salian, 2019)

Computers are capable of generating visual art by themselves (Elgammal, 2017) and in some cases their work has been deemed more successful by viewers than those produced by human artists (Voon 2017); We can see the same possibilities for landscape photography.

To test their system, the researchers showed the generated artworks to a pool of 18 people to judge, mixed with 50 images of real paintings — half by famous Abstract Expressionists and half shown at Art Basel 2016, a fair that represents “the forefront of human creativity,” as Elgammal told Hyperallergic. The results: participants largely preferred the machine-created artworks to those made by humans…

(Voon 2017)

As the technology improves, we can anticipate that more artists and/or photographers will take up these tools, extending their use from the cinematic and game worlds into the (fine) art world. It will soon be possible to create conceptual landscape art in 3D, allowing different forms of art, as well as extending the reach of the artist. The landscape being digitally stored will potentially allow others to build on or change these views, perhaps creating new forms of collaboration. All these changes will impact the broad art market and affect the prices of these manufactured landscapes as the concept enters the mainstream.

As these changes occur, some questions will need to be addressed: If a machine is creating most/all of the content, who is the author, who owns the copyright? To what extent will change be needed in the existing art ecosystems of physical or virtual galleries, curators, sellers, and artists? Will the current online, peer to peer model for manufactured landscapes, where artists sell directly to customers, continue to prevail? It is surely unlikely that the existing art market will remain unchanged.

Framework for judging the success of art

It is clear that there is no single measure of success in art[1]in general; instead, there are many ways that this can be addressed (How can one measure the quality of art? 2016).  Criteria of success can be broadly classed as either subjective, e.g. the satisfaction in producing the work, or objective, e.g. number of pieces sold, number of likes on social media etc..

The purpose of art might encompass many things, ranging from communication of ideas or stimulation of emotions to simple entertainment… depending on one’s belief in what art is all about [2]. How well an individual piece of art succeeds in its purpose is naturally just as difficult to define. I will concentrate on the criteria of how well the landscapes represent reality, the economic value, and reaction of the broad populace as measures of success. They cover the dimensions I consider most important; however, I know very well that other criteria may be considered valid.

The Theory of Representation (Davies, 2009), where art is judged by how well it represents reality, is particularly relevant for manufactured landscapes; without the ability to appear real, I would suggest that this approach loses a lot of potential.  Computer graphic images are already comparable in realism to traditional photographs. In fact, scientists and technologists are now being forced to develop tools for deciding whether images have been manufactured – humans cannot tell the difference (Tokuda 2013).

Economic value is an interesting area to investigate further, since it can be argued that it is a single measure that encapsulates many of the factors listed above. However, the idea of art being judged by money is anathema for many; it has often been argued that price does not represent many fundamental human values including art (Cho 2012). There is extensive literature (Beech, 2016; Findlay, 2012; Art valuation, n.d.) that examines the applicability of economics to art and art valuation.

Llewellyn Smith’s point of departure, nevertheless, identifies a fundamental question for any economics of art: can market forces (his ‘economics of quantity’) feasibly be expected to perform as a mechanism for allocating resources to the arts on merit (his ‘economics of quality’)?

(Beech, 2016)

Reaction of the broad populace to art must, to my mind, be considered as a key point in measuring success. An aesthetically appealing landscape will be popular, no matter whether it is taken from the real world or created as CGI. As the manufactured landscape becomes more realistic it will be able to move away from its current hyper-realistic feel, becoming able to emulate existing locations, if desired.

As stated above, in the film or games world there is a high acceptance of manufactured landscapes and one can even say that the digital images are required. As a primary source, only a few CG artists have a high profile, but even they are only known within a narrow circle of devotees. This is probably less than the popularity of landscape photographers as a whole. However, as a group, photographers are hardly household names; how many contemporary landscape photographers are known to the wider populace?

For many artists, however, the focus on beauty, a key factor for broad popularity, is rather simplistic.  All too often, other aspects such as meaning, emotional impact or reflection of subtler aspects of reality are lost. (Ottley and Hanna, 2017).  In my opinion, developments in CGI currently under way will increasingly allow these artists too enough scope for their personal vision.

Conclusion

It is clear that technology has always and will continue to progress; this is not specific to landscape photography or even photography in general. Art can embrace and employ the new possibilities. A case in point is the impact photography had on painting. Some will prefer to use older technology, as is today the case. There will always remain a market for authentic landscape images and traditional photography will continue to fill that gap. However, many practitioners will embrace the newer technology because of its creative potential and use it to create innovative forms of art.  The images that they all produce will be looked at for creativity.

The new possibilities will lead to democratisation of the landscape, there will be less/no need to visit locations physically in order to create specific images, thus allowing more people to realise their vision.  However, this comes at a price; there will be a lack of the serendipitous experience which supports the creative process.  In addition, as discussed by Benjamin (see Larsen, n.d), there will be a lack of the aura intrinsic to the unique landscape, which would be replaced by a simulacrum. Is this sufficient to prevent creative thinking and art? I would argue no.  The subtitle of this essay posed the question Can manufactured digital landscapes be more successful images than traditional landscape photographs? The three criteria identified above (verisimilitude, economic value and reaction of the broad populace) can be applied specifically to computer created landscapes.  I believe that the answer to that question is currently maybe but in the near future, with all the coming changes, it will be a resounding YES. As we have seen by the work of Voom, computer manufactured art is already preferred in some cases to human developed work. Artists will raise to the challenge but will (probably) need to embrace new approaches.

For a true artist, mastery of a particular tool is not sufficient; more important is that the results of using the tool fulfil the artist’s intent and communicate to the intended audience. The developments currently under way in Digital Art are making this possibility more and more of a reality.


[1] We will consider manufactured landscapes e.g. in films as visual art and use art criteria as a means to judge.

References

Alexander, J., 2015. Perspectives On Place. London: Bloomsbury, pp.90-115.

Artprice.com. 2020. The Contemporary Art Market Report 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.artprice.com/artprice-reports/the-contemporary-art-market-report-2020/digital-agility&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

 Artsy.net. n.d. Joan Fontcuberta – 114 Artworks, Bio & Shows On Artsy. [online] Available at: <https://www.artsy.net/artist/joan-fontcuberta&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021]

Beech, D., 2016. Art And Value. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Cho, S., 2012. Cognitive Transformation As A Value Of Art: A Study Of The Cognitive Value Of Art. PhD. Temple University.

Cole, D., n.d. Misc. Matte Painting — Dylan Cole Studio. [online] Dylan Cole Studio. Available at: <https://dylan-cole-j5dx.squarespace.com/new-page-5&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

ConfirmedBurger, 2018. Field Sunset By ConfirmedBurger On Deviantart. [online] Deviantart.com. Available at: <https://www.deviantart.com/confirmedburger/art/Field-Sunset-754026630&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Creative Bloq. 2014. 7 Great Ways To Create CG Landscapes. [online] Available at: <https://www.creativebloq.com/audiovisual/7-great-ways-create-cg-landscapes-81412773&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Davies, S., 2009. A Companion To Aesthetics. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Elgammal, A., 2017. Generating “Art” By Learning About Styles And Deviating From Style Norms. [online] Medium. Available at: <https://medium.com/@ahmed_elgammal/generating-art-by-learning-about-styles-and-deviating-from-style-norms-8037a13ae027&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Computer-Generated Imagery. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer-generated_imagery#:~:text=Computer%2Dgenerated%20imagery%20(CGI)%20is%20the%20application%20of%20computer,commercials%2C%20videos%2C%20and%20simulators.&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Art Valuation. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_valuation&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

 Findlay, M., 2012. The Value Of Art: Money, Power, Beauty | Artnet News. [online] artnet News. Available at: <https://news.artnet.com/market/defining-the-value-of-art-27673&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Halso, I., n.d. ILKKA HALSO Esittää/Presents. [online] Ilkka.halso.net. Available at: <http://ilkka.halso.net/&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Hochberger, C., 2020. How On Earth Do They Do That? The Art Of CGI Explained Via 6 Digital Artists Pushing The Medium Forward. [online] Artspace. Available at: <https://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/art-tech/how-do-they-do-that-the-art-of-cgi-explained-via-6-digital-artists-pushing-the-medium-forward-56410&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Karadayi, G., 2017. Photorealistic Landscape Bundle 1 in Environments – UE Marketplace. [online] Unreal Engine. Available at: <https://www.unrealengine.com/marketplace/en-US/product/photorealistic-landscape-bundle/&gt; [Accessed 16 February 2021].

Kul-Wan, C. and Piero, 2007. Introducing Aesthetics. Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd.

Larsen, E. n.d. The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction [online] The modernism lab. Available at: <https://campuspress.yale.edu/modernismlab/the-work-of-art-in-the-age-of-mechanical-reproduction/&gt; [Accessed 15 February 2021].

Özel, K., 2020. Between The Clouds. [online] ArtStation. Available at: <https://www.artstation.com/artwork/Pm8vmr&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Ottley, G. and Hanna, R., 2017. Do consumers know enough to assess the true value of art? A study of beliefs and attitudes toward the NEA. Journal of Public Affairs, 18(2), p.e1654.

PetaPixel. 2019. NVIDIA’s AI Can Turn Doodles Into Landscape ‘Photos’. [online] Available at: <https://petapixel.com/2019/03/19/nvidias-ai-can-turn-doodles-into-landscape-photos/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

 Philosophy Stack Exchange. 2016. How Can One Measure The Quality Of Art?. [online] Available at: <https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/21553/how-can-one-measure-the-quality-of-art&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Salian, I., 2019. Gaugan Turns Doodles Into Stunning, Realistic Landscapes | NVIDIA Blog. [online] The Official NVIDIA Blog. Available at: <https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2019/03/18/gaugan-photorealistic-landscapes-nvidia-research/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Smith, D., n.d. Where Is The Future Of Photography Headed, And Can You Still Have A Career As A Photographer?. [online] Nature’s Best :: by Don Smith. Available at: <https://www.donsmithblog.com/2020/01/04/where-is-the-future-of-photography-headed-and-can-you-still-have-a-career-as-a-photographer/&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

 Stanley, I., 2020. Is Software Driving Or Destroying The Future Of Photography?. [online] Fstoppers. Available at: <https://fstoppers.com/originals/software-driving-or-destroying-future-photography-528009&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Tate. n.d. Digital Art – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: <https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/digital-art#:~:text=Digital%20art%20can%20be%20computer,filmed%20with%20a%20video%20camera.&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Tokuda et al. 2013 Computer generated images vs. digital photographs: A synergetic feature and classifier combination approach Journal of Visual Communication and Image Representation 24(8):1276–1292[Accessed 13 January 2021].

Voon, C., 2017. Humans Prefer Computer-Generated Paintings To Those At Art Basel. [online] Hyperallergic. Available at: <https://hyperallergic.com/391059/humans-prefer-computer-generated-paintings-to-those-at-art-basel/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Wallin, A., n.d. Andrée Wallin. [online] Andreewallin.com. Available at: <https://andreewallin.com/&gt; [Accessed 16 February 2021].

Number of words

Total number of words excluding quotes and references: 2001; words in quotes: 186

Discussion

In the discussion I look at the strengths and weaknesses of the work, how it fulfils the brief, how it might be developed further, and finally my main learning.

Strengths and weaknesses

I think the strength of the work is:

  • The topic contemporary, interests me and I hope relevant for my assignment 5.
  • I think my approach and structure of the essay is logical and easy to read.
  • The essay is based on a significant amount of background research

Weaknesses are:

  • Although I have tried to be judgemental I have had to supply a reasonable amount of contextual information.
  • There is a risk that the essay is too broad and that I have not gone deep enough into specific topics

How my work fulfils the brief

In this section I take the key points from the brief and discuss how well I think I have fulfilled them.

Understand relevant topics and issues around landscape practice

I think the topic I have chosen is relevant to contemporary landscape practice and the issues I raise are pertinent to the topic.

Use research skills competently, Analyse appropriate resources

I think my approach of using authoritative sources, followed up by more general references and recording and summarising pertinent information shows competence.

Articulate your own, informed ideas at a level commensurate with HE5 level study.

I have tried to include my ideas as much as possible within the essay, I felt constrained by the need to synthesize the current state in order to provide context. With a higher word count I would have been able to provide more of my own ideas.

How the work might be further developed

I think this work could be progressed by delving deeper into a two topics: economic view of art, how artists embrace new technologies to create innovate work.

What did I learn

My main learning from this assignment was the revelation that manufactured landscapes were so prevalent and that with the increased ease of use that they have the potential to significantly impact mainstream landscape photography.

Assignment 4: Tutor Feedback

Introduction

This blog entry details the response that I obtained from my tutor to my initial submission for assignment 4 Critical Research and my proposal for assignment 5. I give my response to the feedback.

Tutor Feedback

Overall Comments

As it stands your essay is well written, coherent and identifies your focus and
input. It’s good and identifies your thought process and relates to your question. It
is not a bad essay by any means particularly at this stage of your studies. I’m
impressed with it but it feels a little too analytical a little business like (for want of
a better word!). I do feel though that the essay could be refined further to
accommodate some really interesting points that you have referenced. I feel that
the essay could differentiate more between the notion of contemporary art and
commerce and replace some of the lengthy contextual points with more of an
emphasis upon the artist, artistic intent and creativity. Maybe more content
supporting the idea of experience and emotion within the use of the landscape
and how the audience views digital/traditional images. Further analysis of artists
and examples of specific images would draw your conclusion. Please refer to the
feedback.


Assessment potential Assignment 4

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography/Creative Arts* Degree and that
you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the
work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the
course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment. In order to meet
all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on,
which I will outline in my feedback.

Type of tutorial Written


Feedback on assignment

You have produced a clear, well-written essay. It’s evident that you have
prepared by considering relevant research. This identifies your area of interest
and is broken down into the relevant chapters. It’s great that you have
documented your initial ideas, thoughts and questions. Clearly you have
considered the topic and your approach. The introduction outlines your interest
and sets out your area of investigation pointing to your use of Alexander’s book –
Perspectives on Place. Moving forward, your essay presents facts and covers a
fair bit of ground discussing the aspects of digital landscape production touching
on commerce and the art world. You discuss economics and of course the notion
of what makes art successful. Throughout you have used relevant quotes
including; Beech, Hochberger and Voon. Your referencing is good and your
bibliography suggests that you have looked at lots of inspirational texts. Your
conclusion, again, is coherent and provides a personal opinion on the future of
digital landscape imaging. It refers to your question and concisely (maybe to
abruptly) wraps up your argument.
The essay is fine and recognizes your, as always, solid, thoughtful and well
researched input. It’s a good essay and identifies your focus. However, I found
the essay a little lacking in some areas or rather, personally, I would like to have
seen it develop and offer more depth in certain areas. As it stands the essay feels
to heavily weighted towards setting a context and posing questions that feel a
little obvious. I think that it’s clear that digital technology will advance. I feel that
more of a differentiation could have been placed on the commercial vs. the art
world. The use of CGI within popular culture, a film etc. is relevant and the
technology taps into the contemporary art world. I think that as it stands the essay
feels too analytical and business like, rather than exploring emotion and
experience within your framework – creativity. I feel that you have some fantastic
research that could be expanded upon, and rather than provide, for example,
your long contextual pointers on judging the success of art and economics allow
more information on the work of Voon.
There are also some really interesting points within your essay that could be
explored further such as when you discuss the democratization of the landscape
and talk about the audience (possibly) having no need to visit locations – what
about emotions, experience? This puts me in mind of the notion of ‘Simulacrum’
and also Walter Benjamin’s idea of the reproduction of an artwork and the ‘aura.’
These ideas would be familiar with contemporary artists using digital software
including Fontcuberta and the artists you have supplied images from. I would also
like to see references to more images, discuss how this new technology
manifests itself within the actual artwork, early on you provide 4 images but no
real analysis of them, these are good examples. I feel that it would be beneficial
to bring them or others such as Fontcuberta into the argument. Overall, I feel that
more emphasis should be placed upon the notion of art – narrow down argument,
differentiate between contemporary art and commercial such as gaming.
In your conclusion you refer to artists and creativity, artistic intent and what they
want to communicate, a little more emphasis upon this and less on the dry
contextual input would, I feel strengthen your conclusion.


Assignment 5 proposal

What if rocks could feel?
I really like your idea to investigate the notion of deep time and it fits with your
previous investigations and area of interest. Clearly it is linked to your essay.
Think about my feedback and how you could utilise this within your project
particularly considering the experience and emotion of the image. It as to appeal
to an objective audience. It’s great that you are prepared to push your practice
and experiment. It’s imperative that you spend time working through the technical
and practical aspects of your images especially if you are using an unfamiliar
software program. At the moment I’m finding it hard to visualise your use of the
Eiffel tower, conceptually it sounds good but try not to over complicate your visual
strategy. Look at your artist references – how do they deal with conceptual ideas,
sometimes quite simply!
Yes, please do consider the dissemination of the work. Some sort of moving
output would be good – link to the concept. However, this obviously depends
upon the final visual strategy but either way thinking about and producing a
coherent series of images is important.
Try and define the goal and be aware of your limitations early on.


Suggested reading/viewing

Please take the time to respond, research and take a further look at these artists
and ideas in relation to your essay and proposal:
Walter Benjamin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blq9sCIyXgA
Idris Khan: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/04/idris-khanartist-
interview-blurred-lines-photographs-sculpture
Rachel Sussman https://mai.art/content/2014/10/14/the-deep-time-question

Summary

Strengths / Areas for development

• Coherent well produced essay.
• Clear engagement with research.
• Continued solid input into coursework and progress.
• Consider reworking essay to relate to more creative and artistic argument.
• Consider the experience of the image and artist intent.
• Continuing research and thinking about ideas for assignment 5.

My response

I think my tutors comments on my essay are fair. I am happy that I have created a well written essay albeit that my emphasis is not what was looked for. I have concentrated too much on the context to manufactured landscapes rather than the creative and artistic impact. I will look into adapting the essay to cover the points that my tutor has mentioned.

The feedback on my Assignment 5 proposal I find positive and the tips on artists to follow up very interesting. I will continue to progress with this and record my thoughts and findings in future blogs.

Assignment 4 – Critical research – Initial submission

Banner image from the game Skyrim developed by @Bethesda Game Studios

The brief

Write a 2,000-word essay (excluding any quotes) on one of the areas of landscape
practice you have encountered during this course so far.
The critical review is an opportunity for you to gain a greater insight into an area, theme, debate or other issue relating to landscape photography that is of particular interest to you. You must choose a topic that’s relevant to your own practice in some way, in order to help you to contextualise your practice and to show that your understanding of landscape photography is informed by relevant practitioners. You should include an in depth evaluation of the work of key practitioners that you reference in your essay. Where appropriate, also reference your own individual images, bodies of work and ongoing or forthcoming projects.
Your written work should clearly show that you have engaged with theoretical, historical and cultural debates around landscape practice within photography and visual culture, and demonstrate that you have developed academically as well as creatively.
To sum up, your critical review should demonstrate that you can:
• understand relevant topics and issues around landscape practice
• use research skills competently
• analyse appropriate resources
• articulate your own, informed ideas at a level commensurate with HE5 level study.
Remember to include:
• correctly cited references and quotations (Harvard referencing system)
• referenced illustrations
• word counts, both excluding and including quotations.
Finally, make sure that your essay is critical rather than narrative. This means that you should focus your efforts on evaluating, comparing, contrasting and questioning the work and theoretical ideas, and not on recounting biographical or historical information, unless it has a significant relation to practice.

The brief

Introduction

This blog entry is my response to the assessment brief above. I describe my approach to the essay; the essay itself and a discussion of how well I think I fulfilled the brief.

I have supporting blog entries:

  • Background research can be seen here.
  • The rationale for the selection of essay topic can be seen here and here).

Approach

Having identified the topic and the question that I wanted to address I brainstormed the areas that I felt I needed to research and an approximate breakdown of words to different sections (see below).

I then performed research using the UCA library and ResearchGate as a means to find primary sources. I followed up with additional Internet resources and references. I collected interesting articles and facts in my electronic notebook. The relevant PDF extracts are here:

I then structured my essay using bullet points which also gave me an more detailed indication of the number of words in the essay and allowed me to adjustment. In order to progress I made assumptions about house style e.g. bullet points and headings allowed that the essay should conform to. Ideally knowing where the essay is to be published would have provide guidance on style. I then filled out bullet points to create a draft version of the essay. I reread this version and also asked my wife to check for readability and typo’s. I then checked the total number of words in the essay, excluding quotes and references and found this to be under two thousand. As a final check I used a plagiarism check program (Plagiarism Checker | 100% Free and Accurate – Duplichecker.com) to ensure that I had not inadvertently copied text. The reports indicated no plagiarism.

Essay

PDF version

Why bother taking photos outside?

Can manufactured digital landscapes make more successful images than traditional landscape photographs?

In this essay I will try to answer the question of whether manufactured landscape images are, or might soon become, more successful than traditional landscape photographs. I will explore the contemporary digital landscape world with reviews of current exponents in order to give context; I consider how the manufactured landscape world might evolve; I develop a framework for judging the success of visual art and in particular landscapes and finally form a conclusion to the question I pose.

The contemporary digital landscape world

Since the evolution of digital technologies, computers, smart-phones, and digital cameras we have an ever-increasing number of options to create images through a variety of digital means. Alongside this capability we now have various possibilities to manipulate the image, ranging from nearly no manipulation to completely manufactured (for an overview see (Alexander, 2015)). In this essay we will be focussing on the nearly to completely manufactured images, particularly those that aspire to be photorealistic images.

In the contemporary world the act of creating manufactured images may be referred to as CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) or Digital Art or CG (Computer Graphics). There are no real definitions and strong overlaps between the terms (Digital art – Art Term | Tate, n.d.; Computer-generated imagery, n.d.) so that we will treat then as synonymous.  Below are a few examples of representative work from these areas.  

(Click to expand)

How are such images created?  Cameras themselves can be used to manipulate images, from simple operations such as adjusting contrast or colour to overlaying of multiple images to fabricate a new view (Smith, n.d.; Stanley, 2020). With the use of tools such as Photoshop, existing landscape photographs can be manipulated almost beyond recognition, with the final image looking unrealistic, hyper-realistic or even altered but realistic.  To create photorealistic landscapes from scratch in two or even three dimensions, several tools are already available, e.g., Terragen, Vue, World Machine (7 great ways to create CG landscapes, 2014), primarily aimed at sophisticated users.

Manufactured images have become commonplace in certain areas, particularly computer games and cinema where there are commercial pressures to produce environments that are exciting, realistic, and immersive to the viewer. The primary function of these images is as a backdrop where characters (real or created) act out their roles, rather than the landscape providing the focus. Individual created images tend to concentrate on the aesthetic, with little other engagement for the viewer. There are, however, some notable exceptions to the focus on the simple aesthetic (e.g. Halso, n.d. Joan Fontcuberta – 114 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy, n.d.)). There are a few competitions (CGMood, CGTrader) for artists in this field and online fora for display of images (e.g. CGTrader, Behance). There are also emerging business models where landscape environments and elements can be bought and sold, e.g., CGTrader, Turbosquid or 3DExport. Images can also be seen in popular photo sharing sites such as Flickr or ViewBug

A giant gorilla swinging from the Empire State Building in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and the entire world of Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar, would have been impossible to produce without CGI (computer-generated imagery)—which utilizes computer graphics to create or enhance special visual effects. Often, magical movie moments come to mind when people think of CGI, but did you know that the process has been implemented in the art world for over 50 years? 

(Hochberger, 2020)

The art market as a whole has not yet broadly embraced manufactured images, see for example the number of digital works in Artsy compared to other genres. In fact, the art market generally is rather slow in embracing new technology opportunities, although through the Covid epidemic it has shifted more online (The Contemporary Art Market Report 2020, 2020).

How the manufactured landscape world might evolve

As CGI technology develops, this will inevitably result in the increased use of these tools, which will in turn have an impact on the visual art ecosystem. There are, however, a number of open questions. We will discuss these points in turn.

It is fairly certain that in the near future the tools will become easier to use, becoming more accessible to more people. They will become more intelligent and increasingly relieve the user of more mundane tasks. A similar development can be seen in the digital camera itself. A sense of the direction of change can be seen by considering GauGAN, an AI tool from NVIDA (Salian, 2019; NVIDIA’s AI Can Turn Doodles into Landscape ‘Photos’, 2019), which is capable of taking simple drawn sketches and creating high quality images.

Example of doodle being converted into a photorealistic landscape (Salian, 2019

The tools will also be able to incorporate audio and haptic elements into a 3D environment, that can be explored virtually. Computers are capable of generating visual art by themselves (Elgammal, 2017) and in some cases their work has been deemed more successful by viewers than those produced by human artists (Voon 2017); We can see the same possibilities for landscape photography.

To test their system, the researchers showed the generated artworks to a pool of 18 people to judge, mixed with 50 images of real paintings — half by famous Abstract Expressionists and half shown at Art Basel 2016, a fair that represents “the forefront of human creativity,” as Elgammal told Hyperallergic. The results: participants largely preferred the machine-created artworks to those made by humans…

(Voon 2017)

As the technology improves, we can anticipate that more artists and/or photographers will take up these tools, extending their use from the cinematic and game worlds into the (fine) art world. Conceptual landscape art can soon be created in 3D, allowing different forms of art, as well as extending the reach of the artist. There will be a democratisation of the landscape, there will be less/no need to visit locations physically in order to create specific images, thus allowing more people to realise their vision. The landscape being digitally stored will potentially allow others to build on or change these views, perhaps creating new forms of collaboration. All these changes will impact the broad art market and affect the prices of these manufactured landscapes as the concept enters the mainstream.

As these changes occur, some questions will need to be addressed: If a machine is creating most/all of the content, who is the author, who owns the copyright? To what extent will change be needed in the existing art ecosystems of physical or virtual galleries, curators, sellers, and artists? Will the current online, peer to peer model for manufactured landscapes, where artists sell directly to customers, continue to prevail? It is surely unlikely that the existing art market will remain unchanged.

Framework for judging the success of art

It is clear there is no single measure of success in art[1]in general; instead, there are many ways that this can be addressed. The following are a set of possibilities (How can one measure the quality of art? 2016) which can be broadly classed as either subjective or objective:

Subjective

  • Personal (satisfaction in producing the work)
  • Reaction by your peers
  • Reaction of the broad populace
  • Judgement by the art establishment (critics, galleries, curators, museums etc.)
  • How well art fulfils its purpose.  This might include communication of ideas, stimulation of emotions, or many other things depending on one’s belief in the purpose of art [2]. It should, however, be mentioned that the Theory of Representation (Davies, 2009), where art is judged by how well it represents reality, is particularly relevant for manufactured landscapes.

Objective

  • Personal (number of pieces sold, number of likes on social media etc.)
  • Art establishment (number of pieces bought, turnover)
  • The economic value placed on the work.

I will concentrate on the criteria of how well the landscapes represent reality (theory of representation), the economic value, and reaction of the broad populace as measures of success. They cover the dimensions I consider most important; however, I know very well that other criteria may be considered valid.

A key measure in this discussion is how well manufactured landscapes represent reality; without the ability to appear real, I would suggest that this approach loses a lot of potential.  Computer graphic images are already comparable in realism to traditional photographs. In fact, scientists and technologists are now being forced to develop tools for deciding whether images have been manufactured – humans cannot tell the difference (Tokuda 2013). It is true that many of the manufactured landscape images published so far have a hyper-realistic feel, but it might be argued that this is only following a general trend of landscape photography, and not intrinsic to the medium.

Economic value is an interesting area to investigate further, since it can be argued that it is a single measure that encapsulates many of the factors listed above. However, the idea of art being judged by money is anathema for many; it has often been argued that price does not represent many fundamental human values including art (Cho 2012). There is extensive literature (Beech, 2016; Findlay, 2012; Art valuation, n.d.) that examines the applicability of economics to art and art valuation.

Llewellyn Smith’s point of departure, nevertheless, identifies a fundamental question for any economics of art: can market forces (his ‘economics of quantity’) feasibly be expected to perform as a mechanism for allocating resources to the arts on merit (his ‘economics of quality’)?

(Beech, 2016)

A huge amount of money is being put into creating manufactured landscapes for films and games which in turn generate large amounts of revenue; it can be argued that without these landscapes the economic value of the final product would be significantly less. In terms of individual landscapes (often virtual 3D), landscape markets exist, where landscapes sell for thousands of pounds, which is comparable to many individual photographs.  Where individual images are presented in the retail art market, prices currently range from tens to hundreds of pounds – significantly less than the high prices commanded by leading (traditional) landscape photographers but it is to be anticipated that over time this will change.

Reaction of the broad populace to art must, to my mind, be considered as a key point in measuring success. An aesthetically appealing landscape will be popular, no matter whether it is taken from the real world or created as CGI. As the manufactured landscape becomes more realistic it will be able to move away from its hyper-realistic feel, becoming able to emulate existing locations, if desired.

As stated above, in the film or games world there is a high acceptance of manufactured landscapes and one can even say that the digital images are required. As a primary source, only a few CG artists have a high profile, but even they are only known within a narrow circle of devotees. This is probably less than the popularity of landscape photographers as a whole. However, as a group, photographers are hardly household names; how many contemporary landscape photographers are known to the wider populace?

For many artists, however, the focus on beauty, a key factor for broad popularity, is too simplistic.  All too often other aspects such as meaning, emotional impact or reflection of subtler aspects of reality are lost. (Ottley and Hanna, 2017).  In my opinion, developments in CGI currently under way will increasingly allow these artists too enough scope for their personal vision.

Conclusion

The subtitle of this essay posed the question Can manufactured digital landscapes be more successful images than traditional landscape photographs? The three criteria identified above (verisimilitude, economic value and reaction of the broad populace) can be applied specifically to computer created landscapes. 

It is clear that technology has always and will continue to progress; this is not specific to landscape photography or even photography in general. Art can embrace and employ the new possibilities. A case in point is the impact photography had on painting.

Some will prefer to use older technology, as is today the case. There will always remain a market for authentic landscape images and traditional photography will continue to fill that gap. However, many practitioners will embrace the newer technology because of its creative potential and use it to create innovative forms of art.  The images that they all produce will be looked at for creativity.

For a true artist, mastery of a particular tool is not sufficient; more important is that the results of using the tool must fulfil the artist’s intent and communicate to the intended audience.

Returning to the question I posed at the beginning of this essay, I believe that the answer is currently maybe but in the near future, with all the coming changes, it will be a certain YES.


[1] We will consider manufactured landscapes e.g. in films as visual art and use art criteria as a means to judge.

[2]  We do not want to get into details about art theory in this essay; for an overview see (Kul-Wan and Piero, 2007)

References

Alexander, J., 2015. Perspectives On Place. London: Bloomsbury, pp.90-115.

Artprice.com. 2020. The Contemporary Art Market Report 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.artprice.com/artprice-reports/the-contemporary-art-market-report-2020/digital-agility&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

 Artsy.net. n.d. Joan Fontcuberta – 114 Artworks, Bio & Shows On Artsy. [online] Available at: <https://www.artsy.net/artist/joan-fontcuberta&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021]

Beech, D., 2016. Art And Value. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Cho, S., 2012. Cognitive Transformation As A Value Of Art: A Study Of The Cognitive Value Of Art. PhD. Temple University.

Cole, D., n.d. Misc. Matte Painting — Dylan Cole Studio. [online] Dylan Cole Studio. Available at: <https://dylan-cole-j5dx.squarespace.com/new-page-5&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

ConfirmedBurger, 2018. Field Sunset By ConfirmedBurger On Deviantart. [online] Deviantart.com. Available at: <https://www.deviantart.com/confirmedburger/art/Field-Sunset-754026630&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Creative Bloq. 2014. 7 Great Ways To Create CG Landscapes. [online] Available at: <https://www.creativebloq.com/audiovisual/7-great-ways-create-cg-landscapes-81412773&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Davies, S., 2009. A Companion To Aesthetics. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Elgammal, A., 2017. Generating “Art” By Learning About Styles And Deviating From Style Norms. [online] Medium. Available at: <https://medium.com/@ahmed_elgammal/generating-art-by-learning-about-styles-and-deviating-from-style-norms-8037a13ae027&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Computer-Generated Imagery. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer-generated_imagery#:~:text=Computer%2Dgenerated%20imagery%20(CGI)%20is%20the%20application%20of%20computer,commercials%2C%20videos%2C%20and%20simulators.&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Art Valuation. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_valuation&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

 Findlay, M., 2012. The Value Of Art: Money, Power, Beauty | Artnet News. [online] artnet News. Available at: <https://news.artnet.com/market/defining-the-value-of-art-27673&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Halso, I., n.d. ILKKA HALSO Esittää/Presents. [online] Ilkka.halso.net. Available at: <http://ilkka.halso.net/&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Hochberger, C., 2020. How On Earth Do They Do That? The Art Of CGI Explained Via 6 Digital Artists Pushing The Medium Forward. [online] Artspace. Available at: <https://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/art-tech/how-do-they-do-that-the-art-of-cgi-explained-via-6-digital-artists-pushing-the-medium-forward-56410&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Kul-Wan, C. and Piero, 2007. Introducing Aesthetics. Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd.

Özel, K., 2020. Between The Clouds. [online] ArtStation. Available at: <https://www.artstation.com/artwork/Pm8vmr&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Ottley, G. and Hanna, R., 2017. Do consumers know enough to assess the true value of art? A study of beliefs and attitudes toward the NEA. Journal of Public Affairs, 18(2), p.e1654.

PetaPixel. 2019. NVIDIA’s AI Can Turn Doodles Into Landscape ‘Photos’. [online] Available at: <https://petapixel.com/2019/03/19/nvidias-ai-can-turn-doodles-into-landscape-photos/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

 Philosophy Stack Exchange. 2016. How Can One Measure The Quality Of Art?. [online] Available at: <https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/21553/how-can-one-measure-the-quality-of-art&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Salian, I., 2019. Gaugan Turns Doodles Into Stunning, Realistic Landscapes | NVIDIA Blog. [online] The Official NVIDIA Blog. Available at: <https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2019/03/18/gaugan-photorealistic-landscapes-nvidia-research/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Smith, D., n.d. Where Is The Future Of Photography Headed, And Can You Still Have A Career As A Photographer?. [online] Nature’s Best :: by Don Smith. Available at: <https://www.donsmithblog.com/2020/01/04/where-is-the-future-of-photography-headed-and-can-you-still-have-a-career-as-a-photographer/&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

 Stanley, I., 2020. Is Software Driving Or Destroying The Future Of Photography?. [online] Fstoppers. Available at: <https://fstoppers.com/originals/software-driving-or-destroying-future-photography-528009&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Tate. n.d. Digital Art – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: <https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/digital-art#:~:text=Digital%20art%20can%20be%20computer,filmed%20with%20a%20video%20camera.&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Tokuda et al. 2013 Computer generated images vs. digital photographs: A synergetic feature and classifier combination approach Journal of Visual Communication and Image Representation 24(8):1276–1292[Accessed 13 January 2021].

Voon, C., 2017. Humans Prefer Computer-Generated Paintings To Those At Art Basel. [online] Hyperallergic. Available at: <https://hyperallergic.com/391059/humans-prefer-computer-generated-paintings-to-those-at-art-basel/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Number of words

Total number of words excluding quotes and references: 1980; words in quotes: 186

Discussion

In the discussion I look at the strengths and weaknesses of the work, how it fulfils the brief, how it might be developed further, and finally my main learning.

Strengths and weaknesses

I think the strength of the work is:

  • The topic contemporary, interests me and I hope relevant for my assignment 5.
  • I think my approach and structure of the essay is logical and easy to read.
  • The essay is based on a significant amount of background research

Weaknesses are:

  • Although I have tried to be judgemental I have had to supply a reasonable amount of contextual information.
  • There is a risk that the essay is too broad and that I have not gone deep enough into specific topics

How my work fulfils the brief

In this section I take the key points from the brief and discuss how well I think I have fulfilled them.

Understand relevant topics and issues around landscape practice

I think the topic I have chosen is relevant to contemporary landscape practice and the issues I raise are pertinent to the topic.

Use research skills competently, Analyse appropriate resources

I think my approach of using authoritative sources, followed up by more general references and recording and summarising pertinent information shows competence.

Articulate your own, informed ideas at a level commensurate with HE5 level study.

I have tried to include my ideas as much as possible within the essay, I felt constrained by the need to synthesize the current state in order to provide context. With a higher word count I would have been able to provide more of my own ideas.

How the work might be further developed

I think this work could be progressed by delving deeper into a two topics: economic view of art, how artists embrace new technologies to create innovate work.

What did I learn

My main learning from this assignment was the revelation that manufactured landscapes were so prevalent and that with the increased ease of use that they have the potential to significantly impact mainstream landscape photography.

Assignment 4 – Critical research – Research

Banner image – Between Clouds @Kadri Özel

Introduction

As part of assignment 4 – Critical research essay I undertook research into a number of areas. This blog entry summarised some of the key finding of this research that fed into my essay (here) providing additional details which, because of word count limitations I could not include in the essay itself. My research was wide ranging but the three main areas are:

  • Measuring success in art
  • Practitioners of manufactured landscapes
  • How the future of manufactured landscapes might develop

Background to my selection of essay topic can be seen here and here). I stored raw data in my electronic notebook. Relevant PDF extracts are here:

Approach

I used my book, the OCA library access to the UCA library and Internet searches to find articles that appear relevant to my essay. I tried to use, whenever possible, authoritative sources.

Results

Measuring success in Art

In researching this topic it appear that there were two main approaches:

  • Lists of features both objective and subjective that one could use to judge success
  • Discussion and use economics to judge how valuable art is.

Below I show some examples of lists that I found (Tanton, 2012; Kahn, 2020; Balletine, 2020; Richard, 2015; Slick, 2020)

(Click to expand)

In terms of an economic view of art, on my reading (Beech 2016; Finlay 2012; En.wikipedia.org. n.d; Ottley, 2017) I found the main points as:

  • It is problematic to use economics as a basis for assigning value to art since does not cover such cultural and social values
  • There are amendments to basic economic theory that might be able cover art
  • Using a balanced score card approach which includes a financial element is a potential approach to measure success.
  • A landmark book by Hubert Llewellyn Smith – The Economic Laws of Art Production – addresses how economics might be applied to art.
  • A fundamental question is: fundamental question for any economics of art: can market forces feasibly be expected to perform as a mechanism for allocating resources to the arts on merit (his ‘economics of quality’)?

Current state of manufactured landscapes

I looked at a number of sites and artists (DeviateArt; Behance; Halso, n.d.; ConfirmedBurger, 2018; Özel, 2020; Cole, n.d.; Slick, 2020) that hosted/produced manufactured landscapes as well as how the ecosystem around the production, marketing, selling and use. I create a collection of these (see below)

Creation of manufactured landscapes

The following are further examples of manufactured landscapes:

(Click to upload)

Marketing & selling of manufactured landscapes

There are a number of dedicated sites where manufactured landscapes can be displayed and sold. In addition there are a number of competitions that promote such landscapes. The following is a list of resources that I discovered:

Use of manufactured landscape

Apart from Fine Art manufactured landscapes are increasingly being used in a number of areas. The following are set of examples from different uses (in films, games, flight simulators and architecture).

(Click to enlarge)

General conclusions

looking at the current state of manufactured landscapes I came to the following conclusions:

  • There is a vibrant and growing industry in manufactured landscapes
  • Certain industries e.g. Film and Games the use of manufactured landscapes, is in many cases, compulsory
  • The realism is so good that many times we are not aware that we are looking at created worlds.

The future of manufactured landscapes

Reading a number of resources (Standley, 2020; Elgammal, 2017; Salian, 2019; Hochberger, 2020; Smith, n.d) the following themes emerged about how manufactured landscapes might evolve:

  • The tools for creating such landscapes will become easier to use and more feature-rich
  • The tools will become more intelligent learning from what humans find interesting in landscape and be able to create by themselves aesthetically pleasing images and 3D worlds but who will own the copyright?
  • The current market places for 2D and 3D worlds will increase with more options to buy and modify landscapes, including copies of real landscapes

Discussion

It seems to me that manufactured landscapes have slowly been creeping into our world, flying under the radar unrecognised, and now in many areas vital for certain design and art(?) activities. We may if we think hard recognise the landscapes as being manufactured but in many cases just accept them as being real, because of their verisimilitude.

The ability to create 3D worlds which can be explored I think opens up innovative options for artist that have not yet been explored.

What did I learn

My main learning through this research was the fact that the use of manufactured landscape was much more persuasive than I had realised.

References

 Artsy.net. n.d. Joan Fontcuberta – 114 Artworks, Bio & Shows On Artsy. [online] Available at: <https://www.artsy.net/artist/joan-fontcuberta&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021]

Balletine, L., 2020. What Are The Top 10 Metrics To Measure Success In The Fine Art World? – Quora. [online] Quora.com. Available at: <https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-top-10-metrics-to-measure-success-in-the-fine-art-world&gt; [Accessed 18 January 2021].

Beech, D., 2016. Art And Value. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Cole, D., n.d. Misc. Matte Painting — Dylan Cole Studio. [online] Dylan Cole Studio. Available at: <https://dylan-cole-j5dx.squarespace.com/new-page-5&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

ConfirmedBurger, 2018. Field Sunset By ConfirmedBurger On Deviantart. [online] Deviantart.com. Available at: <https://www.deviantart.com/confirmedburger/art/Field-Sunset-754026630&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Elgammal, A., 2017. Generating “Art” By Learning About Styles And Deviating From Style Norms. [online] Medium. Available at: <https://medium.com/@ahmed_elgammal/generating-art-by-learning-about-styles-and-deviating-from-style-norms-8037a13ae027&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Computer-Generated Imagery. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer-generated_imagery#:~:text=Computer%2Dgenerated%20imagery%20(CGI)%20is%20the%20application%20of%20computer,commercials%2C%20videos%2C%20and%20simulators.&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Art Valuation. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_valuation&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

 Findlay, M., 2012. The Value Of Art: Money, Power, Beauty | Artnet News. [online] artnet News. Available at: <https://news.artnet.com/market/defining-the-value-of-art-27673&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Halso, I., n.d. ILKKA HALSO Esittää/Presents. [online] Ilkka.halso.net. Available at: <http://ilkka.halso.net/&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Hochberger, C., 2020. How On Earth Do They Do That? The Art Of CGI Explained Via 6 Digital Artists Pushing The Medium Forward. [online] Artspace. Available at: <https://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/art-tech/how-do-they-do-that-the-art-of-cgi-explained-via-6-digital-artists-pushing-the-medium-forward-56410&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Kahn, M., 2020. How To Measure Success As An Artist • Brilliant Playground. [online] Brilliant Playground. Available at: <https://brilliantplayground.com/how-to-measure-success-as-an-artist/&gt; [Accessed 18 January 2021].

Özel, K., 2020. Between The Clouds. [online] ArtStation. Available at: <https://www.artstation.com/artwork/Pm8vmr&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Ottley, G. and Hanna, R., 2017. Do consumers know enough to assess the true value of art? A study of beliefs and attitudes toward the NEA. Journal of Public Affairs, 18(2), p.e1654.

PetaPixel. 2019. NVIDIA’s AI Can Turn Doodles Into Landscape ‘Photos’. [online] Available at: <https://petapixel.com/2019/03/19/nvidias-ai-can-turn-doodles-into-landscape-photos/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

 Philosophy Stack Exchange. 2016. How Can One Measure The Quality Of Art?. [online] Available at: <https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/21553/how-can-one-measure-the-quality-of-art&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Richard, 2015. How Can One Measure The Quality Of Art?. [online] Philosophy Stack Exchange. Available at: <https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/21553/how-can-one-measure-the-quality-of-art&gt; [Accessed 18 January 2021].

Salian, I., 2019. Gaugan Turns Doodles Into Stunning, Realistic Landscapes | NVIDIA Blog. [online] The Official NVIDIA Blog. Available at: <https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2019/03/18/gaugan-photorealistic-landscapes-nvidia-research/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

Slick, J., 2020. How Many Of These 50 Concept Artists Could You Name?. [online] Lifewire. Available at: <https://www.lifewire.com/concept-artists-to-inspire-2117&gt; [Accessed 18 January 2021].

Smith, D., n.d. Where Is The Future Of Photography Headed, And Can You Still Have A Career As A Photographer?. [online] Nature’s Best :: by Don Smith. Available at: <https://www.donsmithblog.com/2020/01/04/where-is-the-future-of-photography-headed-and-can-you-still-have-a-career-as-a-photographer/&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

 Stanley, I., 2020. Is Software Driving Or Destroying The Future Of Photography?. [online] Fstoppers. Available at: <https://fstoppers.com/originals/software-driving-or-destroying-future-photography-528009&gt; [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Tanton, J., 2012. 10 Stupid & 10 Meaningful Ways For Artists To Measure Success | Janice Tanton :: Full Time Human Being. [online] Janice Tanton :: Full Time Human Being | Living The Art-Full Life. Available at: <https://www.janicetantonblog.com/blog/10-stupid-and-10-meaningful-ways-to-measure-success&gt; [Accessed 18 January 2021].

Exercise 4.1: Critical review proposal

Banner image by the author

The brief

Feel free to do this exercise before you get to Part Four of the course.
Read forward to the brief for Assignment Four.
When you’re ready, send your tutor a proposal for your critical review. You may have
a firm idea of what you would like to write about, or you may have several topics to
decide between. At this stage you’re not expected to have a plan. This proposal can
take the form of an informal email, of not more than 200 words. You must contact
your tutor before you begin your research and writing in earnest.

The brief

Introduction

I have previous thought of a number of essay ideas and shared them with my tutor and got feedback (see here). In this blog entry I take my initial proposal and deepen my proposal. Since I have already communicated with my tutor i don’t feel at this stage I need further confirmation on the direction I have taken.

Discussion

My initial proposal was:

Can manufactured digital landscapes be more successful images than traditional landscape photographs?

  • Review of what we understand by manufactured digital landscape with examples
  • Discussion by what successful could mean
  • Discussion of current situation of digital v. traditional
  • Discussion about how the future might look
  • Conclusions

After thinking further about the essay and taking my tutors comments into consideration the following is a more fleshed out proposal (with word count). This will probably change somewhat after I start performing detail research.

Can manufactured digital landscapes be more successful images than traditional landscape photographs?

With this essay I would explore the following (not necessarily in this order):

  • Introduction (200 words)
  • Review of what we understand by manufactured digital landscape with examples (e.g. Fontcuberta and Holdsworth (300 words)
  • Discussion of current situation of digital v. traditional (300 words)
  • Discussion by what successful could mean (how to measure art of commercial) (300 words)
  • Discussion about how the future might look (technological and art views) covering AI technology, copyright and who is the author. (700 words)
  • Conclusions (200 words)

(Total of 2000 words without quotes)

As next steps I’ll start to identify research areas and start investigating. I’ll record my findings in my electronic notebook.

Assignment 4: Thoughts on possible topics

The brief

Write a 2,000-word essay (excluding any quotes) on one of the areas of landscape
practice you have encountered during this course so far.
The critical review is an opportunity for you to gain a greater insight into an area, theme, debate or other issue relating to landscape photography that is of particular interest to you. You must choose a topic that’s relevant to your own practice in some way, in order to help you to contextualise your practice and to show that your understanding of landscape photography is informed by relevant practitioners. You should include an in depth evaluation of the work of key practitioners that you reference in your essay. Where appropriate, also reference your own individual images, bodies of work and ongoing or forthcoming projects.
Your written work should clearly show that you have engaged with theoretical, historical and cultural debates around landscape practice within photography and visual culture, and demonstrate that you have developed academically as well as creatively.
To sum up, your critical review should demonstrate that you can:
• understand relevant topics and issues around landscape practice
• use research skills competently
• analyse appropriate resources
• articulate your own, informed ideas at a level commensurate with HE5 level study.

The brief

Introduction

In this blog entry I describe my first thoughts on possible essay subjects for assignment 4. I describe my approach, the possible topics, my current three favourites and some more details to these. I intend to use this entry to get initial feedback from my tutor. I will be updating this entry as my thoughts/ideas mature.

24th October 2020: I received feedback from my tutor and my response, see below.

Approach

I used the following approach in order to come to topics, in form of questions that could be possibilities:

  • Using mind mapping, I brained stormed an number of general themes that interest me.
  • To this I used the course classification of landscape to identify areas of landscape that might be relevant.
  • Using these two lists I identified possible connections.
  • From this I selected a number of broad areas of interest.
  • I then identified a number (six) of possible topics and put them in form of questions.

I then mulled over these initial questions (see Results), and subsequently added some more. From these I selected the three that interested me most and I felt had the most potential for a reasonable essay.

Results

The following mind map is the result of my brainstorming:

Initial list of potential topics:

My initial topics were:

  1. Do contemporary photographers focus on humans shaping landscape or landscapes shaping humans?
  2. Has landscape photography now lost the ability to meaningfully impact society?
  3. Does contemporary abstract landscape photography focus on beauty and not the sublime?
  4. What are there common themes across different cultures concerning landscape photography?
  5. Does landscape photography lend itself to surrealism?
  6. Can manufactured digital landscapes be more successful images than traditional landscape photographs?

The following are additional ideas that I had:

  1. Are anthropomorphic landscapes photographs merely amusing and without depth?
  2. What do landscape photographs reveal about the photographer?
  3. How do successful landscape photographers evoke different emotions in their work?

Discussion

Looking for criteria for a successful 2000 word essay I have come up with

a) The topic must be specific enough to be able to go into sufficient detail with 2000 words with being too narrow

b) It needs to be interesting to me and ideally interesting for others

c) Need to be able access relevant research material

d) Not been discussed to death

e) Support later course or my project work

The reason I did not consider topics were:

  • Idea 1 – too general; Idea 3 – too general; Idea 4 – too general; Idea 5 – Discussed to death; Idea 7 – too detailed? Idea 8 – too general

To my chosen three potential topics I have added some details as to the potential direction that the essay might go.

Has landscape photography now lost the ability to meaningfully impact society?

With this essay I would explore the following (not necessarily in this order):

  • Short exploration of what meaningful impact means
  • Historical review of landscape photographs that have had impact and the themes that they speak to.
  • Current major topics that occupy landscape photographers that could have a wider impact
  • Assessment of general and specific impacts
  • Conclusions

This topic has the disadvantage that I can’t see at the moment any direct connection to my work, although it might provide general insights.

Can manufactured digital landscapes be more successful images than traditional landscape photographs?

With this essay I would explore the following (not necessarily in this order):

  • Review of what we understand by manufactured digital landscape with examples
  • Discussion by what successful could mean
  • Discussion of current situation of digital v. traditional
  • Discussion about how the future might look
  • Conclusions

Since I am considering using digital landscapes for Assignment 5 this could be directly relevant for me.

How do successful landscape photographers evoke different emotions in their work?

With this essay I would explore the following (not necessarily in this order):

  • A look at different possible techniques to create different emotions
  • As selection of works and a critique
  • Summary of best practices
  • Conclusions

Although this topic is directly relevant for my assignment 6 I think I need to finesse the topic to make it a successful essay.

I will consider these for a while before finally deciding and see what the feedback is from my tutor.

What did I learn

My main learning was that it is very difficult to come up with a topic that is specific enough to be addressed in 2000 words but also interesting to myself and others.

Tutor feedback and my response

From my tutor I received:

It’s great that you have explored so many ideas for your essay. Narrowing down to 3 is good and will help. First off I would say choose the essay that most interests you, the one that you want to write. 2000 words isn’t much once you factor in intro, main body and conclusion so keep your area of research and argument focussed, try not to go off on too many tangents.

Ideas my response

1. Did landscape photography ever have the ability to impact society? Have you an image in mind? I think of landscape images from the war WW1, maybe Vietnam? Probably closely related to the photojournalism idea, think famine, Africa etc. You need a solid example to argue with against something contemporary. Landscape isn’t a widely (knowing) genre for most people.

2. Probably your best option particularly if it will help feed into later assignment. Contemporary and suggest talking about present/future technology. How do you measure success? art or commerce driven? Some interesting work out there using digital software – Fontcuberta, Holdsworth – I mentioned these previously. AI technology, who owns copyright, who is the author?

3. Seems like a bigger less convincing topic, how do you measure successful emotions when it’s so subjective, who’s emotion, author/audience? Probably would have to link to the history of landscape painting again be specific, sublime etc.

My response

I liked the analysis that my tutor provided and after personal reflection I will go with my option 2 and progress this and record in other blog entries.