Roger Hopgood

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Roger Hopgood's MPhil/PhD Art research project

Photography and Its Aesthetic Inheritance: Defining the Picturesque Photograph and Its Vantage Point

The focus of the investigation is the relationship between photography and The Picturesque. The principles of the Picturesque movement of the 18th century are drawn into a discussion of our current understanding of the picturesque photograph with the aim of revealing continuity in aesthetic values and subjective relationships with landscape.

Vantage point is explored as an integral element of the Picturesque effect, with compositional structure being recognised as a means of centring the viewer within a subject/object dynamic. Lacan's notion of a subjectivity initiated by vision, and desirous of a state of wholeness, is connected with a pictorial form that is compositionally self-contained, and inviting of a view of rural Otherness where a resilient Picturesque figure appears embedded in 'nature'. The instability of the subject of language (the symbolic order) is in this way related to a pursuit of the corporeal in a wild (but imaginary) landscape.

In addition to an engagement with the visual motifs that define the Picturesque, such as irregular form and ruin and decay, the temporal register of the Picturesque is examined. Associations with nostalgia are developed to consider the Picturesque photograph as a crystallization of actual and virtual conceptions of time, where the captured instant resonates with echoes of the past and alludes to future desire.

With a renewed understanding of Picturesque principles, recent photography is examined with the intention of revealing a continuing presence of the original Picturesque aesthetic. Documentary, as a form commonly associated with factual recording, is scrutinized for tropes of Picturesque effect with presumptions of photography's indexical link with the real being reassessed. The empirical and aesthetic realms, often seen as distinct, are located in the photograph (and act of photographing) as immeshed and made complex by subjective desire.