From Geography to Photography

Many, many years ago, I got a degree in Geography. At that time, there were some discusions about what Geography was. As a result there were a lot of Geographies: Physical, Human, Regional, Urban, Rural, Positivist, Radical…

The landscape became a common framework for some of these geographies, with the basic distinction between natural and cultural landscapes, the first being the background over which the second grows.

Some decades later, it seems that the resolution of the dialectical process between natural and cultural landscapes shows us that both, natural and cultural landscapes, are in a pitiful state of degradation and dilapidation.

And this pitiful state, I dare say, is the result of the state of our cultures. As Kenneth White wrote in his Essay The Great Field of GeopoeticsFounding texts :

For there to be culture in a deep sense of the word, there has to be a consensus in the social group about what is essential. In every grounded and vivifying culture, you find a central focus. Everyone (no doubt with different levels of discourse) refers to it – the philosopher in his study, the peasant in his field. […] A world, well conceived, emerges from a contact between Mind and Earth. When the contact is sensitive, intelligent, subtle, you have a world in the full sense of the world. When the contact is stupid and brutal, you have nothing like a world, nothing like a culture, only, and more and more so, an accumulation of refuse, including a lot of «cultural products».

In front of this situation, two typical attitudes are the social and the individual response. The social response is beyond the scope of this Site. My individual response led me to the photography, and is what I’m talking about.

Looking back, I can see that I feel attached to three cultural aspects: the Romanticism, the Zen culture and the Geopoetics.

The poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin and the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich showed me some aspects of the Romanticism: self-reflection, the solitude and a relationship with the nature that allow us to understand that we are linked with that nature.

The Haiku from Matsuo Bashô were an introduction to the Zen culture who emphasizes the reverence for Nature – a joyous companion to life-, and the process of perception.

Some works of Kenneth White, founder of the Geopoetic, a theory-practice that can provide a basis and open up perspectives for all kinds of practices (sic) – the photography in my case-.

At the end, an underlying commitment to the Nature led me towards trying to capture the beauty of the natural world with my camera. Scouting the locations, taking the pictures and developing them, are for me a sort of meditative acts. Looking for compostions and light moods allow me to feel a deep sense of place in every location I visit.

I hope you’ll cann find some traces of all that in my pictures.

Xavier Arnau Bofarull

Visit my On Landscape Profile
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