- Photopaysage/Landscape Representation: A French/American Dialogue
Pearl Hall, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 15–17 October 2015
Co-sponsored by the Landscape Architecture program and numerous others at the University of New Mexico (UNM), by George F. Thompson Publishing, by Gruet Winery, by the George Pearl Endowment, and by the French Centre nationale de la recherche (CNRS) and organized by L’École nationale supérieure du paysage de Versailles (ENSP), the School of Architecture and Planning, and the Center for the Southwest Research at UNM, and the CNRS, this event comprised a bilateral/bilingual conference, three photographic exhibitions and launch of the book Drawn to Landscape: The Pioneering Work of J. B. Jackson. Contributors to the conference comprised an astonishing array of American scholars, many with detailed personal and professional memories of Jackson (characterizable as more retrospective), and a younger (more prospective) group of French photographers, scholars, and practitioners.
The screening of three films about Jackson was followed by the opening of Documenting the Cultural Landscape: The J. B. Jackson and Chester Liebs Collections—an exhibition curated from the UNM’s archive of over 13,000 photographs, running until 11 December 2015. The second exhibition—Vernacular in Place: Old and New Topographic Photography—curated by Chris Wilson (Chair of the American Organizing Committee) and photographer Miguel Gandert, also drawn from the UNM Art Museum collections, runs until 12 March 2016. The third exhibition—Photographic Notes on the Road: J. B. Jackson, 1955–89, curated by Jordi Ballesta, running until 11 November 2015, sought to re-trace Jackson’s journeys across the United States from documents and photographs held by the UNM Center for Southwest Research.1
Wilson and Frédéric Pousin (Chair of the French Organizing Committee) opened by describing the event as a showcase for two intellectual perspectives on the role of photography in the interpretation of the United States’ territory and its role in landscape architecture. Eight pairs of speakers—one from each country—addressed the conference. Timothy Davis (U.S. National Parks), paired with Monique Sicard (CNRS), gave a concise overview of 120 years of U.S. cultural landscape photography as an insight to a National Parks book on the subject to be published in 2016. Sicard examined the question “what does knowing through photographs mean?” through the work of French photographer Bernard Plossu in the U.S. West between 1966 and 1985. Paul Groth (U. C. Berkeley), inheritor of significant sections of Jackson’s 35mm slides and lecture notes, discussed “how Jackson taught himself to see” and described that work as a record of “the hand of humans on the earth.”2 Jordi Ballesta (a researcher at CNRS and ENSP) addressed Jackson’s “Field Research and Amateur Photographic Practices,” reaffirming Groth’s view of Jackson as someone who saw landscape “not so much as scenery as the people who made it” and who saw photography as a medium that “regards landscape from within rather than from without.”
Historian Helen Horowitz (Smith College, Massachusetts)—“The Discerning Eye behind J. B. Jackson’s Camera”—demonstrated detailed recall of Jackson’s personal predilections, particularly his concern that “people just don’t look” at landscapes sufficiently deeply to see them as anything other than “pretty” or “ugly” . . . an affinity for genius loci that has congruency for landscape architects. Bruno Notte-boom (University of Antwerp), addressed Jackson’s contributions in his journal Landscape (from 1951 to 1968), identifying the synchronous impacts of Edward T. Hall, Kevin Lynch, Gordon Cullen, and Grady Clay on the way that we read landscapes, and stressing, in particular, Jackson’s non-judgmental reaction to U.S. landscapes. Frédéric Pousin presented work under the Mission photographique de la DATAR from 1984—effectively a rebirth of programs carried out between 1860 and 1944 to record geographical phenomena such as changes over time in glaciers—to recording viewpoints along a hiking trail through peri-urban Marseilles, developed as part of its role as European City of Culture 2013. Matthew Coolidge, founder of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (www.clui.org), addressed what, to all intents and purposes, is an exercise in the...