For April’s DCC on the theme of ‘The Wild’, we started by looking at photographers who brought images of wild places to new audiences, including the Abraham Brothers with their rock climbing guides and photographs of hitherto quite unknown corners of the Lake District, Snowdonia, and the Cuillin of Skye. Ansel Adams made famous the wilderness of Yosemite in the 1930s, but long before him Carleton Watkins made Yosemite iconic in the 1860s and had a profound influence on the politicians of the day, paving the way for the US National Parks system. This political aspect to their work may counter criticisms such as those of Henri Cartier-Breson that this photography of wild places was of no social significance. Political concerns about wildness have also been at the forefront of work by photographers such as Fay Godwin, with images portraying the impact of land management practices and restrictive access.
Some photographers have sought to portray the human side of wild places, including Paul Strand‘s work in the Outer Hebrides in the 1950s. This is echoed in the work of contemporary photographers such as Colin MacPherson, who photographs places in the west Highlands and islands of Scotland that are traditionally considered wild and remote – but from where? Sophie Gerrard‘s work was another example of a photographer seeking to avoid the romantic view of our rural landscape and discover something more authentic in her images of female farmers across Scotland.
Finally, some photographers were discussed who have explored the wildness closer to home, such as Jonathan Stenvall‘s images of semi-urban nature near Stockholm, and Chris Payne‘s images of wildness reclaiming what was once human-dominated on North Brother Island, New York. We finished with Eric Sanderson‘s images depicting Manhattan in 1609 at the point of European discovery, and his suggestion that we should “dedicate ourselves to granting back to nature warmth and possibility in the cities where we live”.
The evening may have somewhat broken with DCC tradition in terms of the number of landscape images, but the theme must have resonated given the impressive proportion of people who had brought some work to show! We saw images on a range of takes on the theme, including the wild Highland landscape, elemental coastal scenes and wildlife, woodlands, and the wildness that can be found in our urban fringes and ‘edgelands’.