Review - “Photography and the Sublime” with Tom Peck, 07 Jun 2021

A review by Janine Scola - “Photography and the Sublime” with Tom Peck, 07 Jun 2021
An evening to make you consider how and why you take a particular image and the emotion it evokes – to understand “sublime” in the context of photography.

Tom’s talk was structured – what is ‘Sublime’, be it in art or photography, exampling this through a series of images covering our landscape – mountains, water, ice, snow and the sea. How Sublime influences our photography not only in the past, but also currently and the future.

To demonstrate, Tom showed historical paintings each providing the viewer to question their interpretation of what they see; some gave the impression of darkness and thus shrouded in ‘terror and doom’ – and yet a landscape does not necessarily reflect the action going on within it. Some images evoked a ‘threat’, with the people shown under siege within the surrounding environment. In contrast, Tom selected a painting of a turbulent seascape, with ships fighting for survival in the maelstrom of a huge storm – this was heightened by the light on the waves which gave the viewer the feeling of ‘fear and panic’.

Tom then progressed to how do we photograph the sublime? Here he used many of his own images taken within Utah and Monument Valley – these of course were ‘awe-inspiring’ bringing the viewer into the image, depicting the vastness of the landscape, but also the immensity of the ‘buttes’ that are dotted within the scene. He referred to the well-regarded mountaineer – Alan Hincks – showing his images of Everest and particularly of Kangchenjunga – of the ‘beauty’ of this high-altitude environment, but also how it is ‘dangerous’ too.

On to waterfalls – of the drama of the water falling and imagining the sound generated, but again the feeling of the ‘power’ of that water as it reaches its base. Our own well known landmark – The Cobb at Lyme Regis – was captured in an image during a raging storm with the sea smashing into the wall;
this of course, evoked the power and strength of the sea.

We moved to ice and snow with images creating a quiet and calming influence. In contrast to previous photographs, this portrayed a peaceful landscape, with the light enhancing the calmness, but also the massive and dramatic icebergs.

The sublime of today is in our artistic world, in suburbia, industry and technology. These were highlighted by images of bridges and the magical light cast on them, giving them their own beauty, to the twists and curves of major ring roads taken by a drone and of course, the Ribblehead Viaduct looking up at its many arches.

A fascinating evening, taking us on a road into the philosophy and history of art, a trip into the wide-open spaces of America and giving us an insight into a cultural trend of how photography and the Sublime might interact in the future. What it did of course, was to make us very aware of the landscape in which we find ourselves, not only to capture ‘the light’ and possibly the story, but also to evoke that emotion and feeling experienced at that moment in time.

~ Janine Scola