Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cristina Quattrone Discusses the Origins of Landscape Photography: Happy Accident or a Reflection of European Romantic-Era Aesthetic Values?

As a visual artist and self-employed photographer with a broad range of influences, Cristina Quattrone has always held a particular fondness for landscape photography and the progenitors of the genre. To this end, Cristina Quattrone believes it is important to explore the origins of landscape photography and how it ultimately became a distinct practice within the burgeoning field of photography in the 19th century.

As shown by the oldest surviving photograph, landscape photography has been an inseparable part of photography from the very beginning. As shot by French inventor Nic├ęphore Ni├ępce in 1826, La cour du domaine du Gras, or View from the Window at Le Gras, depicts a segment of the photographer’s village, Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, in the Burgundy region. While blurry, particularly on the edges, View from the Window at Le Gras represents not only the first permanent photograph taken using a camera obscura shot onto a sheet of oil-treated bitumen, but the first example of landscape photography. One can see rooftops, outer walls, windows, a tall tree, and the French countryside stretching into the horizon.

As shown by the great European painters of the 19th century, landscape art began to gain popularity in the early part of this period, with prominence in England and France during the 1830s. Perhaps telling, as seen by Cristina Quattrone, it would be more than 10 years before anyone took a photograph of a person, albeit from a distance. In 1838 or 1839, Louis Daguerre shot people walking down a Paris city street in Boulevard du Temple.