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 
  • Amy Sailer

    In Ansel Adams photo The Tetons and the Snake River, he portrays the subject intent of form-based. A form-based photograph creates a visual and perceptual experience that emphasizes the autonomy or primacy of formal qualities (Bowey). This photo does a good job portraying the visual experience because the picture is so clear and shows details of the mountains, the river, the trees and everything else, it makes you feel like you are actually there experiencing the landscape.

  • Ashlin Hake

    I think that Ansel Adams’s photo of the Tetons and the Snake River is using a depictive intent combined with a form-based intent. I say this because it is a very detailed photo, it is as if you are there when you look at it, it gives you that “perceptual experience” like the form-based intent states. I think it is depictive because it doesn’t have a lot of detail on what is actually happening in the photo, its not telling a story, but more just giving you “visual info” like the depictive definition states.

  • Danielle Evert

    I believe Harry Gruyaert’s photo, Le Caire, Egypt, displays a depictive and illustrative intent. I see depictive intent, which “aim[s] to offer descriptive, visual information…about the surfaces of people and objects”, in the fact that this photo is giving the viewers information about the present state of the building as well as the future. For this reason, I also see an illustrative intent to “explain a story or action” (Bowey). This author is telling a story about how the present is become the future by showing the progression on the building. You can see with great detail how the finished product compares to the incomplete portion. I believe the use of bright colors and sharpening composition shows hope and happiness for what the future holds.

  • Joe Rys

    In the Ansel Adams picture I think that the snow capped mountain further into the picture is the subject. I think this because the river seems to be leading the eye into the mountain. Also, the sun seems to be back lighting the mountain really well, which really makes the mountain pop. The clouds also add some drama to the back lighting and to the mountain.

  • Tasha Toombs

    In Harry Gruyaert’s photo Le Caire, Egypt, he is using the Depictive intent to offer visual information. He is using this photograph to kind of show a “before and after” of what these buildings look like. It is progressive, because there are people that have been working on “improving” the appearance of these buildings.

  • Ryan Emanuelson

    I believe that the intent of Ansel Adams photo is to capture and tell us how beautiful are earth really is. The photo came at a time when there was great violence in the world (World War II) so maybe he wanted to show us that the earth can be magnificent in a good way. I think it is interesting that in the photo there seem to be some dark clouds, maybe a storm is on the way, but there is also sunlight coming through. Whenever there are dark times, good times may be ahead as well. The photo can also show how small we really are. The Snake River is a large river and this photo makes it look rather small. The mountains in the background look as if they’re not that big, but they are probably a very large distance away.

  • Jon-Michael Brandt

    The Ansel Adams photo is to represent how large and vast this world is. And how it can make us feel so small. The photo also shows the great beauty of nature and how we have to stop and soak it in.

  • Kinsey Mace

    In Ansel Adams photo, The Tetons and the SnakeRiver, he is using an expressive subject as this picture aims to bring about emotions when the viewer looks at it. It’s of a landscape, but you can see in the distance it looks like there will be a storm. This causes an anxious feeling, as you are waiting for something to happen. Also the black and white of the shot makes it more dramatic, were you’re just seeing light and dark, and there’s no color to help make it look peaceful.

  • Georgia

    I think that Ansel Adams photo was made to represent the huge amounts of growth our world is having. He does this using the illustrative subject intent. He also is able to illustrate that people are affected during all of these times of change.

  • Nicole Freid

    I think Harry Gruyaert’s photo uses the depictive genre, he is trying to show you and inform you on what is new and improved in the area. He is trying to show you a transformation.

  • Lincoln Kirchoff

    I liked the Ansel Adams photo of the mountains and river and thought that it showed expression of emotions. The photograph is very underexposed, which would show sadness or more negative emotions. The river is bright from the light shining off of it, making the river appear to bring life to the valley.

  • MacKenzie Kush

    In Ansel Adams photograph of The Tetons and the Snake River, I think the subject intent is very expressive. The scene seems like a poem could be written about it, and definitely conveys a certain mood and feeling, such as calming with this photograph.

  • Heather Torkelson

    In the second photo by Harry Gruyaert, I believe it is statement-oriented intent. I feel like he wanted to show the state of things, as the photo was set in Le Caire, Egypt 2012-13. From current events, we know that Egypt hasn’t been in the best shape lately. The photo depicting the erection of what looks to be either a hotel or apartments is making a statement about the country’s progress.

  • Shannon Grossman

    The subject intents of the Harry Guyaert, Le Caire, Egypt
    photograph are showing the landscape of a building complex with a billboard
    advertising the same buildings. It seems like the photographer was trying to
    mock the idea of advertising these buildings right in front of them, blocking
    the real view of them.

  • Jessica Dorman

    In Martin Parr, Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, 1991 photo
    I think he is trying to compare the man made buildings and cloth to the magnificent
    snow capped mountains behind them! The subject matter being the couple browsing
    the cloth from the little shop and the way that both of their arms are raised
    upwards it seems to be directing you to look next at the mountains. I think it
    is an expressive intent that is aimed to convey a mood or emotion and I feel
    like I am so small compared to the mountains and it makes me feel total awe.
    The bright colors and sharp composition is great to show that is it a happy

  • Bailey

    I think that in Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942. The intent is to show that nature is both
    beautiful and frightening. The River and mountains look quite peaceful but if
    you look on the right side of the photograph you will notice what appears to be
    storm clouds rolling in over the currently peaceful area. That is why I believe
    the intent of this picture was to display the beauty and danger of nature.

  • Victoria Langhans

    The photograph from above that I am choosing is “The Tetons and the Snake River” by Ansel Adams. I believe this photo is an expressive photograph. It is expressing natures beauty. Just by taking one glance at the photograph, I am in awe. So, if this photograph really is expressive, it did a very good job at it. It shows that nature, even when dark, can still have so much meaning and be just as beautiful as when the sun is out and shining.

  • Megan Rudie

    The photograph of the two people looking at scarves is both deceptive and illustrative through my eyes. It’s descriptive about the people in the picture and it also depicts the mountain in the background. It is illustrative because it tells a story of these two tourists looking at scarves. Maybe they buy it maybe they don’t. It’s kind of ironic in a way because these two people are looking at these scarves instead of the beautiful scene behind them.

  • Brian Osowski

    In the Ansel Adams photograph, The Tetons and the Snake River, I think the photograph is trying to convey the awesome power and beauty of nature. In the background are the tall, jagged mountains, with what appears to be a storm rolling in. In the front is the river, gently flowing through the earth. It is a reminder how just how beautiful and dynamic nature is.

  • Jackson Collins

    The Harry Gruyaert photo is saying that we may adverse an easy life filled with luxury and convenience, but what we really get is a hard life. Using a statement-oriented intent in his photo, Gruyaert showed us his idea of living conditions and expectations these days.

  • Patrick Kennedy

    The image of the two
    people looking at the fabric next to the mountains I think depicts the beauty
    of the Swiss Alps. The subtle flag in the foreground gives you an idea where
    the two tourists are and the green grass and snow covered mountains is a
    beautiful contrasting landscape. It seems like it shows a little of everything
    when it comes to vacationing in the country. I do think its funny though that
    the people in the image are far more fascinated with the fabric showing the
    country then the landscape itself.

  • Patrick Allen Christner

    In the Ansel Adams photo I believe the genre he used was expressive. From my understanding Ansel Adams was a romantic photographer and wanted to show the beauty of nature, this photo has lots of work put into it between the lighting to get the “perfect” shot, since he was very thoughtful on every photo that he took. A viewer of this photograph should walk away with the thought, I would love to go there someday…I know I personally did.

  • Trevor Lucking

    I think the intent behind the Harry Gruyaert photo is to show us how we can be shown and dream about getting something in the future but it might not be as good as we were visioning. The reason I think this is that the billboard of the apartments looks much nicer when compared to the actual building behind it.

  • Jessica Holmberg

    I think the Ansel Adams photo is an example of expressive photography. It fits into this genre by expressing the beauty of nature and power it can have. I believe that this photo shows the natural beauty of the snowcapped mountains and winding river. I also liked that he didn’t need human subject matter to convey an expression of beauty. He simply captured breathtaking landscape.

  • Megan Robson

    I Harry Gruyaert’s photo, “Le Caire Eqypt” he uses the
    genres of both depictive and illustrative intent. Depictive intent is when the
    picture offers descriptive, visual information about the surface of people and
    objects. Here I think that he does this by showing information about the future
    of the building along with a small view of its present state. This also leads
    me to believe that Gruyaert uses illustrative intent as well. I think that by capturing the old and new, its like he is almost telling a story of the progression of
    the building or he might even be trying to show the transformation or progression
    of the country as a whole.

  • Isaac Keller

    I believe that the photograph titled “Le Caire Egypt” by Harry Gruyaert uses a statement oriented subject intent. I believe it is a statement oriented intent because many times when people think of Egypt they do not think of large hotels and buildings they think of dry dessert lands. This makes this photograph statement oriented because it shows that Egypt is not just a place for dry desserts and that it is progressing into becoming a place that is inhabited by many and is currently expanding.

  • Katie Elberson

    Harry Gruyaert’s photo, “Le Claire Egypt”, is a good example of statement-orientated intent. Statement-orientated intent can be defined as photos that aim to make judgments about society or the state of things. In this photograph by Harry Gruyaert, I believe he is trying to show his audience that Egypt is a society that is no longer just deserts and empty space, as Americans like to think. It’s a developing country that is building at an exponential rate. The photo was taken in 2012-2013, meaning their building and expansion is moving at a very fast paced- contrary to what we as Americans think Egypt looks like.

  • Jason Straub

    I think Harry Gruyaerts photo, “Le Claire Egypt,” has two intents. In his photo he uses depictive and illustrative. I like this photo cause most people dont think about this when they are picturing Egypt. Most think about pyramids and sand. This pic is illistrative in the sense that it shows what Egypt is more like now and tells people where Egypt will be going. That also makes this photo depictive at the same time.

  • Karisa Hanson

    In the photograph taken by Ansel Adams titled The Tetons and the Snake River he shows the subject intent with form-based. Form based being a photograph that creates a perceptual and visual experience with an emphasis on the primacy of formal qualities. The
    image does a wonderful job of showing the visual experience because of the clear subjects in the image. The landscape makes you to believe you are right there in the landscape with the subject matter.

  • Nicole Remer

    Ansel Adam’s photo ‘The Tetons and the Snake River’ uses the genre form based. The photograph displays a landscape that creates a visual perception. It emphasizes the depth of the landscape from a higher vantage point. The subject intent is to express the beauty of the mountains in the background, and the river helps bring the viewers to every part of the image.

  • Samantha Stetzer

    Le Caire, Egypt by Harry Gruyaert conveys a statement oriented intent because of the background and reality in from of it. On the wall is a picture of a beautiful development, and behind it the progress seems to be running smoothly. But in front of the wall we see people walking on a cluttered and weedy road. It does not look like it has been very kept up with. This conveys that society has the need to cover up its imperfections with glossy features and giant buildings. It tries to cover up the bad feelings and facts of life by showing on the surface everything is beautiful, when, in reality, everything is not okay.

  • Wycliff Onyango

    Harry Gruyaert photograph is intended to show modern
    flats/apartments. The project is under construction and a billboard photograph
    shows how the final buildings will look at. It’s more of a depictive and
    illustrative photograph. The photograph can also shows conservation of spaces
    which later gives room for other activities like tracks for walking. It can
    also show elevation of life since the building are well designed and very

  • Kayla Severson

    “The Tetons and the Snake River” by Ansel Adams is using the form based genre. The goal of form-based photos is to “create a visual and perceptual experience” the experience should emphasize the importance of formal qualities. The photo is doing this. It is showing the depth of the landscape from a high point. The subject intent is to see and feel the beauty of the river and the mountains. The photo makes you feel like you are in the photo looking down at the landscape.

  • Andrea Olson

    “The Tetons and the Snake River” by Ansel Adams uses a form based genre as it melts into an experience in itself for the audience. Beginning near in the foreground to many miles away in the background, the river does exactly what it says – snakes through to the Teton Mountains. This photograph does its job in making the viewer feel small and insignificant, yet in such a way that promotes respect and admiration for the complexity and beauty of such a vast and dynamic landscape.

  • Jonathan Moore

    The Ansel Adams photograph “The Tetons and the Snake River,” 1942, is utilizing an expressive intent. Through depicting the grand scale of nature and the chosen landscape he creates a sense of awe and wonder for the great outdoors and the beautiful and unique views that can only be found by going outdoors.

  • Leah Youngblood

    The photo taken in 1942 by Ansel Adams called “The Tetons and the Snake River” is showing a subject matter of expression. This photo gives off a dark and mysterious feeling. The clouds above look like they are brewing a storm causing not much light to be coming through the photo. I also think there is form-based and depictive subject matter being utilized.

  • Samantha Scholler

    In Ansel Adams photo, “The Tetons and the Snake River”, he uses the subject intent of form-based. A form-based photograph is defined as “Photographs that aim to create a visual and perceptual experience that emphasizes the autonomy or primacy of formal qualities.” I think that this photograph does a good job portraying this because it is so clear, and it shows the mini details of the mountains, river, trees, and everything else around it. The photographer really made if feel like you were right there taking in the beautiful landscape.

  • kacey brausen

    The photo “The Tetons and the Snake River” by Ansel Adams
    uses the subject matter of expression. The photograph creates an awe sense and
    takes your breath away. The expressive subject is defined as photographs that
    aim to convey a mood, emotion, experience, feeling, or psychic event. I believe
    this photograph does this because of the nature depicted in the photo. It truly
    holds beauty.

  • Nicole Haedtke

    Ansel Adam’s “The Tetons and the Snake River” is expressive because of the emotion if evokes. It is a clear beautiful piece with a subject that is overwhelmingly stunning in size. One feels as if they are standing on the mountain and seeing first hand the beauty.

  • Kylynn Wolfe

    In the photograph “Le Caire, Egypt” by Harry Gruyaert that was taken in 2012, I believe the intent is to show what the building is going to look like when the structure is finished. The billboard is advertising how nice the building will look when it is completed, hoping to gain the interest and business of people before it is even done.

  • Kylie Bridwell

    I believe in the photo by Harry Gruyaert “Le Caire, Egypt, 2012-13” he is expressing Illustrative photography as he is showing the picture of the future buildings, some are complete and some are still being worked on. He can be illustrating the steps that it takes for development to occur. He could also be using statement-oriented photography as this photo only shows one design of building and the mass production of only that one design. He could be making the judgement that the industrialization of Egypt is causing them to conform to the world society or modernism and will be lacking individualism
    and creativity.

  • Samantha Schierman

    The photograph “The Tetons and the Snake River” by Ansel Adams uses the subject intent of expression. Expression is attempting to convey emotions or feelings. The river seems small in proportion to the mountains and hills around. This provokes emotions because it shows the vast beauty that nature holds. One can also see that this is just a small portion of a landscape and there is so much more to the world.

  • Alex Plank

    The photograph “The Tetons and the Snake River” is an expressive photograph. An expressive photograph is one that aims to convey a mood or feeling. The feeling that I get from first glancing at the photograph is one of mystery. I believe that the subject intent of this photograph is to show the vast beauty of the landscape, even with the dark clouds.

  • Clayton Fox

    I believe that the photograph “The Tetons and the Snake River” by Ansel Adams uses expressive photography. This picture has a dark feel to it with the lighting and contrast. The mountains and river bring up strong emotions. Each viewer definitely will react differently to the photograph but I believe the intent is to convey a mood or draw out emotions.

  • Tyler Mohr

    The photograph “The Tetons and the Snake River” appears to use expressive photography. The use of contrast makes the picture appear almost sinister in intent and I think that those who see it could be left with an array of confusing and differing emotions from confusion, to one of creepy eeriness

  • ejemen aimienwauu

    I think that the photograph by Ansel Adams “The Tetons and
    the Snake River “ taken in 1942 uses expression as his main subject. This photography
    evokes a reaction and conveys an emotion. From its name, there is even a sense
    of poetry in it, the way the river flows so calmly. The proportion in size of
    the mountain compared to the river is ironic. The photograph expresses a deeper
    meaning in landscape.

  • Ashley

    Harry Gruyaert, Le Caire, Egypt, 2012-13 © Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photo, is a flat out reality. What is shown now is. I think Gruyaert is looking to express a play on the truth – levels of what we think we see and what is really happening around us. This photo is a great expression of how much more there is to a landscape. It is within the personal individual to follow the story to a end. And this case into a new possible new apartment.

  • Breanna Huening

    I believe that expressive photography is used in the photograph “The Tetons and the Snake River” by Ansel Adams. The photographer uses black and white for the color of the photo which creates somewhat of a dark mood for the viewer. This also gives a sense of deep emotions help within the photo.

  • Pang Carter

    Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942 I think the intent is to show expression or feeling. With the lighting or lack of light there of it has a sad gloomy feeling. So for the viewer it portrays a sad feeling.

  • Kayla Piltz

    In the photograph by Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942 I believe his subject intent would be a form-based style. This photograph emphasizes autonomy that is nature. Nature does not work with the work of humans who have to do work to make nature work. This photograph has many different autonomous functions such as the river flowing, snow on the mountains, and the various clouds that could be forming a storm. All of the details in this photograph are very clear and precise which helps the viewer believe that they are actually there taking in the view as well.

  • Hannah Herrera

    I think the intent of The Tetons and the Snake River by Ansel Adams was to show the grand beauty of the mountains and the river that flows nearby. I think he wanted to share what those in cities had forgotten about just how beautiful our country really is.

  • Hannah McGlone

    The subject intent of Ansel Adams “The Tentons and Snake River” I think is how beautiful nature is and how it is not always what is expected. The way the river is given an animal trait like snakes gives it more meaning.

  • sydney croft

    Ansel Adams ” The tentons and Snake River” uses form-based photography, the photo shows the depth of the mountains, and the length and lines of the river. The intent is to show natures beauty and focuses on the mountains and the river between the mountains. The contrast of dark and light in the photo also gives a dark feeling to the photo, but at the same time still shows the beauty of the mountains and river.

  • Rachel Boehmke

    I think that the photo by Ansel Adams, “The Tetons and the Snake River” has three subject intents working together. The first is depictive in that the photo itself is showing the detail of the mountains, river and forest together. The second is expressive in that the black and white of the photo as well as the lack of any life form in the photo give it a sense of solitude. The third is form based in that it is creating a visual and perceptive experience using the shadows, the different depths and the different textures of the scene in the photo.

  • Jade Spaulding

    In Harry Gruvaert’s photo Le Caire I believe that the subject intent was to show what was to come for the building and the people who are going to live there. I really like how the people are walking across the billboard and it looks like they are a part of the billboard.

  • Taylor Nyman

    Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942
    This photo is one of Ansel’s famous photos. This photo provides us with a long weaving river within the depths of the mountains. What is cool about this photo is that it is in black and white which allows the viewer to see the reflection on the river to attract the eye leading all the way to the mountains.

  • Eric Frazier

    I think the intent of The Tetons and the
    Snake River by Ansel Adams was expressive and form-based. Expressive in that he
    wanted show the beauty of nature. Form-based in that he wanted to give the
    experience of a place.

  • Melody Vang

    Harry Gruyaert’s photo above I would say is a Form-based and depictive. The reason being is because I see so much clarity within this image, the quality is so rich and detailed.

  • Cassandra Koscianski

    The picture by Ansel Adams shows me that it is expressive and form-based. It’s subtle but yet it’s not because it’s such a beautiful landscape. It’s a visual experience and gives off a peaceful, tranquil feel.

  • Noah Loos

    The Tetons and the Snake River, photographed by Ansel Adams in 1942, is a beautiful landscape photograph that showcases the Snake River and the nature that surrounds it. The intent of this photo looks like it’s to show off the beauty of this area and its physical appearance. This would make this photo both depictive because it’s showing details of this specific area, and form based.