Module 9: Genre and Landscape

0 Posted by - May 22, 2014 - Courses, Photography Appreciation
Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942

Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942

With this module we turn our attention to photographic genres. A genre is a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content, technique or style. In your readings you will see genre classification based on all of these. In the course modules we will study genres based on content categories: Landscape, Still Life, People & Portrait, and Society & Culture.

A key to studying genre is understanding photographic purpose and intent. As we explore genre we are exploring intent. Photographs within a genre are produced for a variety of intents. For example, a portrait could be created from the perspective of fine art, photojournalism, or advertising. Another way to look at intent within a genre is the five subject intents (also known as The Five Subjects):

Depictive: Photographs that aim to offer descriptive, visual information, with more or less detail and clarity, about the surfaces of people and objects.
Expressive: Photographs that aim to convey a mood, an emotion, or an intangible experience, feeling, or psychic event. These images are highly subjective and are akin to poetry.
Illustrative: Photographs that aim to explain a story or action.
Statement-oriented: Photographs that aim to make judgments about society or the state of things.
Form-based: Photographs that aim to create a visual and perceptual experience that emphasizes the autonomy or primacy of formal qualities.

Photographs in a given genre can be created with any one or more of these intents, and through the study of genre we see even more the rich and varied ways that subject matter is transformed into subject through photography.

Harry Gruyaert, Le Caire, Egypt, 2012-13 © Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photo

Harry Gruyaert, Le Caire, Egypt, 2012-13 © Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photo

Question: What do you think are the subject intents in the photographs above? Pick one photograph and explain the subject intent in the comments section below.

Module Content

We begin our study of genre with Landscape. To get started, please read and study the following:

The Photographer’s Vision, p. 39 – 45

Understanding Photo Genres

Brief History of the Landscape Genre

Ten Surefire Landscape Photography Tips

Review the photographs in the Magnum Landscape online exhibit

Featured Photographer: Robert Adams

Robert Adams, Overlooking Long Beach, on Signal Hill, 1978–1983

Robert Adams, Overlooking Long Beach, on Signal Hill, 1978–1983

Robert Adams is renown for his landscape photographs of the American West in which he explores the increasing destruction of the landscape. Read and view material about the photographer at the links provided here. He is also an inspiring voice on art and life. As you view his work think about how he uses the landscape genre to articulate deeper subjects.


Read the Featured Photographer links and research photographs by Robert Adams. Then find and add your favorite photograph by the photographer to the featured photographer collection. Write a photographic analysis of the photograph that identifies the genre, subject matter and subject of the photograph. Use terms and concepts from the course in your analysis. Full Directions

Discussion Topic

We tend to have a very narrow concept of landscape photography that is limited to wide-angle natural scenes. But landscape is a complex genre of photography. After reviewing the readings, photographs and photographers in this module, write your own definition/description of landscape photography. Include what you see as the purpose of landscape in your answer. Be sure use specific terms and cite examples to support your answer. Full Directions

Creative Practice

Using the reading in this module as a guide, create your own landscape/place photograph. Landscapes are not just recordings, they say something. What do you want to say? Remember, our best photographs come when we force ourselves to look at things differently and photograph things that we might otherwise ignore. Be creative with your choice of subject matter, lighting, and composition. Full Directions

Top Image: Martin Parr, Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, 1991