Unless we are surrounded by trees or tall buildings, or we deliberately point our lens groundwards, horizons are an inevitable part of landscape photos. Given this it seem that the number of photographers who have deliberately used the horizon as the primary design element in their photos is relatively few. Of course, there are plenty of professionals who understand how to use the horizon as part of a broader scheme – after all it defines the lower limit of the sky, and therefore directly impacts on the balance of the image – but few of them simply use the horizon as a subject.
Suguimoto is one – graphically they are really the only element in many of his seascapes. By placing them in the centre he adds to the sense of stability – the sense that the view is unchanging – and by so doing enhances the idea that the sea is unchanging and always with us
A rather different approach is followed by Lynn Silvermann who uses pairs of photos – each pair containing a shot taken directly at her feet, and another of the distant horizon – to represent her travels through the Australian outback. Her use of very low horizons invokes the sublime to emphasise the emptiness and loneliness of the outback, while the pairing conveys the idea of movement and travelling to the horizon.
Even lower horizons are used in the cityscapes of Jugnet and Clairet – who feature just the tops of the roofs in their series Louis Bleriot. I have struggled to find any commentary on this series, so I can only surmise their intent from my reading of the images, but I feel that the too are invoking the sublime – and illustrating the effect that the sky must have had on early pioneers of flight – with just big, blue emptiness all around and the safety of the ground insignificant below.
Finally, Elina Brotherus has produced a whole series on Horizons- with varying placements categorised as Horizons, Low Horizons and Very Low Horizons. On her website she says she enjoys the formal simplicity of a few horizontal lines. In at least one example she has managed to use cloud in front of a mountain to almost reverse the idea of horizon by placing it in the middle ground, and other examples of her work are quite Sugimoto-like in their meditative simplicity.
Danish photographer Per Bak Jensen also features predominantly horizon pictures in his contribution to Vanishing Landscapes and I plan to add some thoughts on those when I have had a chance to research him further.
One thing that strikes me about many of the photos I have referenced is that they have a sense of loneliness, or of something completely out of reach and forever unreachable. Yet at the same time there is a constancy and sameness about the views – especially in those with a central placement Is this something to do with the sublime? I’m not totally sure, but it does reflect the feelings I get when standing on the seashore with the waves at my feet, and is another thread that I’ve taken into Assignment 3.