July 23, 2021

What Is Nature Without Man?

Roderick Milne

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Ilford FP4 Plus 125 Black and white film (digitised)Landscape in Lockdown, 202154.12cm x 40.16cm

In photography, what do we mean when we talk about landscape? Many photographic images of the Scottish landscape strive to efface the marks of man and eschew placing people in the frame, panoramic or otherwise. Is not the world beautiful when we’re not in it, seems to be the subliminal message. Perhaps we want to underscore an affinity with nature. Yet, no landscape, however remote, is untouched, unmanaged or unaltered by human agency. In January 2021, the lockdown gave me the opportunity to contextualise these competing notions. I did so at the Glenshee Ski Centre in the Cairngorms. Normally, the Ski Centre would be buzzing in the conditions shown in the photographs. COVID-19 lockdown measures meant a unique new look for the landscape. The snow is largely undisturbed. There are small prints in pillowed snow, left by grouse and hares. A maintenance crew has dressed the lower slopes. A few skiers and snowboarders scaled the slopes on foot. The infrastructure has been mothballed. It felt important to recast the landscape in a different light––to say something unscripted in unprecedented times. With a Canon AE-1, I shot on 35mm black and white film, developed this at home and scanned the negatives.