The Land: 20th Century Landscape Photographs, 1975

The cover of the exhibition catalogue for ‘The Land’.

My memory is a bit vague, but the exhibition entitled ‘The Land; Twentieth Century Landscape Photographs‘, at London’s Hayward Gallery in 1975, was most likely the first major photographic exhibition that I ever visited.
It was certainly the first exhibition to leave a lasting imprint on me  – and my visual awareness.

Selected by Bill Brandt, it comprised 200 photographs of landscape from which he selected 48 to be included in the accompanying catalogue published by Gordon Fraser.

Exhibitions of photography were rare back in the 1970s and this was at a high-profile venue, selected by a photographer whose reputation was probably as high as any achieved around that time. My memory of it is solely based on the catalogue now, the actual full contents of the exhibition being hard to recollect, but it did show me – for the first time – what photography in the landscape was capable of. It was also my first encounter with the work of Raymond Moore and Fay Godwin.

As far as I recall there were no colour images; colour landscape photography was certainly not something I was aware of then and was probably not considered ‘artistic’ enough for inclusion in a show at a major gallery, especially at a time when any exhibition of photographs was rare enough.

The Photographers’ Gallery in London had only opened its doors in 1971 and was still finding its feet; Brandt had been exhibited there in 1974 and his major retrospective show, organised by MOMA, New York, had been shown at the Hayward in 1970 before touring the UK. Possibly the success of this show led The Hayward to commission Brandt to select photographs for The Land. There is some background to this on the V&A’s website.

The list of participants whose work appeared in the catalogue is diverse and contains many major names. It is a tribute to Mark Haworth-Booth’s and Brandt’s awareness of practitioners, both historical and current, and world-wide. Of particular interest though is the inclusion of people like Raymond Moore and Fay Godwin, both ‘newcomers’ at this time and both pursuing a type of landscape photography that was very different, both to each other and to the mainstream ‘established’ view of landscape.

It contained images by many photographers not best-known for their work in landscape, including Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and Brassai. Below are six examples of the type of work shown.

There are no references elsewhere on the web to this major exhibition as far as I know, which is what prompted me to include it here.
I have not yet endeavoured to find out the complete exhibition listing, but hope to do so at some point, but below are the contents pages, showing the photographers chosen for the catalogue.

The catalogue contains a preface by Sir Roy Strong, an introduction by Mark Haworth-Booth, and essays by Jonathan Williams, Aaron Scharf and Keith Critchlow.

The inclusion of work by Minor White and Harry Callahan, and the presence of Jonathan Williams’ essay in the catalogue, may give a clue as to the reason for Raymond Moore’s inclusion. All were close friends of his.

Roy Hammans
November 2012 (revised 2017)
Original catalogue © The Gordon Fraser Gallery Ltd 

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