Lines in the Landscape


November 21, 2013 by talkaboutyork

Caught in a Web of Iron, North Queensferry, Fife, ScotlandI did an online test recently as part of a life coaching exercise. I was surprised to find that this came up as my second strongest characteristic:

You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

I’d never thought about that before, but it is true. I do get deeply moved by beautiful things, whether it’s stunning landscapes, poetic words, innovative ideas or art. Apparently if you don’t feed this characteristic, you feel down. Which is probably why I have always have a yearning to go on long walks in the countryside or coastal paths, and why I feel elated when I look at the towering spires of the Minster set against the sky, or feel inspired by creativity and clever ideas.

So when I was invited to go to the press preview of the Lines in the Landscape exhibition at the National Railway Museum yesterday, I was very happy to go. It showcases the Take A View Landscape Photographer of the Year winners, runners up and shortlisted entries over the last few years in the Lines in the Landscape category. In short, that means photographs of trains, railway lines and stations.

Unless you’re a train spotter, than might not sound that exciting. But trust me, if you like brilliant photography and you appreciate beautiful landscapes, industrial architecture and just the clever use of light, speed and depth of field, then it is well worth going to see this exhibition.

The picture at the top of this post is the winning entry for this year. And I can see why it won. The more I look at it, the more I want to look at it. My eye is drawn in, the sharp angles of the metal work, the contrasting softness of the steam puffing, the bold colour. My heart more naturally connects to natural beauty like hills, sunsets, water, but many of the photographs, like this one, are full of man made materials that demand appreciation. Some of the photographs are of downright ugly scenes, but there is still a beauty in the textured grittiness of them.

It wasn’t just the photographs that I loved, it was the descriptors alongside each provided by the photographers. (But perhaps that’s because I love words.) Many bordered on poetry and made me far more aware of the lengths the photographers go to to get the perfect shot.

I won’t show you the pictures – a small shot on my blog won’t do them justice, you need to go see them on display or see a selection of them here – but here are some of the descriptors. See if you can find them at the exhibition:

‘I noticed this train while walking from Mam Tor to Lose Hill on a sunny February afternoon. It reminds me of a colourful caterpillar on a green leaf with prominent veins – the effect created by the dry stone walls.’ And indeed, it did look like a caterpillar!

And possibly my favourite picture just for its remarkable symmetry:

‘The arches of this Victorian viaduct are supremely elegant – their lofty outlines form a soft grey silhouette in the misty glen. Below, a troop of skinny poplar trees stand to attention, bursting with spring growth. Each tree appears to line itself up below an arch, as if they might link together like some gigantic zip.’ I wonder whether the photographer saw the zip and was inspired to take the shot, or if the zip idea came to him after it was taken.

I took my time looking at each picture and will happily go back again, particularly as the York Art Gallery is closed until 2015, so we are lacking an artistic focal point in York at the moment. I mentioned this to the competition founder, and one of today’s most respected landscape photographers, Charlie Waite. He said he was pleased that I thought of photography as art, as many people don’t in comparison to more traditional art forms. To me, art is the creation of something that provokes a reaction. These photographs certainly provoked a reaction in me. I left with a spring in my step and a lighter heart.

So if you, like me, feel the need to appreciate beauty and talent, get along to the NRM. The exhibition opens today and runs until 5 May 2014. It is free entry.


2 thoughts on “Lines in the Landscape

  1. Elaine Bonney says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I also appreciate brilliant photography and how the photographer has captured the image and created their own story.

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