The German romantics perceived nature as an immersive experience, not something to be looked at objectively, not something to be dissected, appropriated and consumed. They respected nature’s unpredictable and complex processes and this is obviously why romanticism is at the root of most contemporary environmentalist theory.
Romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling argued that human consciousness was only one of the manifestations of nature’s omnipresent activity. Only through art, he believed, can we get a sense of nature’s relentless and encompassing processes, because aesthetic activity, like Nature’s activity is partly conscious, partly subconscious.
But isn’t Photography objectifying by essence? Or is there a way to represent nature as animate, a way to experience life’s movement through Photography?
Artist Daro Montag uses photography in its broadest sense in an attempt to represent, or trace, what he calls “nature’s events”.He works blind, burying transparency film into soil or placing organic material onto film and allowing microorganisms to interact with the gelatine sheets. The resulting Bioglyphs are a direct trace of nature’s activity.
Similarly, in his series Constellations (1993), Joan Fontcuberta recorded dust, crushed insects and other debris that accumulated on the windshield of his car by “applying sheets of 8-by-10-inch film directly to the glass and shining a light through, creating photograms, which were then made into Cibachrome prints.” (Ken Johnson, NY times 1993)
For the 1998 River Taw series Susan Derges worked at night, placing photographic paper on the riverbed and allowing moonlight to write the waters’ infinite dancing, aided by a flashgun.
Stephen Gill is interested in bringing the photographic image and organic matter together. For Outside In (2010) commissioned by the Brighton biennale 2010, he introduced insects, seaweed, local plant life and fish tails to the camera chamber.
In Trigger (2011) Melanie Stidolph “introduces a shift of control as she allows animal action rather than human thought to trigger the shutter” (http://www.melaniestidolph.com/)
What interests me about these artists is that they play with the idea of nature representing itself, nature not as the passive observed but as a animate organism making its own mark so there is a true dialogue between the artist and their subject and this act of reciprocity, this two way interaction is another form of movement, of dynamism.