Week 5 Of mother nature & marlboro men 25.02.20

Week 5 Of mother nature & marlboro men 25.02.20

Every representation of landscape is also a record of human actions and values imposed on the land over time…in whose interests were they conceived?; why do we still desire to make and consume them?; why is the art of landscape photography so singularly identified with a masculine eye? (Bright, 1985)


Read Deborah Bright (1985), Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men (Links to an external site.) in Exposure 23(1), Winter.

  • Briefly note any key ideas raised by Bright (1985) that particularly interest you
  • Find an advertisement, or another kind of persuasive image, in which you can identify an interesting relationship to the gaze
  • Post this image / advert to the forum
  • Comment on the posts of your peers throughout the week as you evaluate the content of the presentations, and keep working and reflecting on your own practice in preparation for the webinar


I have to be honest, I am not interested in landscape photography, not in any meaningful way anyway. I can appreciate a landscape photograph, yes, and give me a turner and I can be in my element for a good 10 minuets ! I ‘get’ it , but I don’t have any desire to produce landscapes, or any desire to spend hours dissecting them minutely, simply to appreciate them in a simplistic way.

However, I am interested in how females are represented in the world, historically and in the present, and how their artistic visions have been created, hidden, erased, celebrated and publicly presented, so I was very intrigued when I read about this subject in ‘of mother nature and Marlboro men’.

“Their approach to marking out a “women’s landscape photography” takes it’s impetus from ecofeminist writings of the 1970′s by Carolyn Merchant and Susan Griffiths which stressed women’s more intimate and emotional reactions to the environment in contrast to the “man the predator” models of masculinity. ” and “Because women were traditionally seen (by both sexes) as primarily differentiated by their reproductive capacity, it was easy to see them as nature itself.” (Bright 1985)

This image of nature as woman, or woman as nature itself , does intrigue me , my practice centers around the portrayal of mother, and woman as nature has a history going back a long way , Fig 1 below shows an undeniably female anthropomorphised New Mexico landscape, whereas fig 2 shows Rosalba Carriera’s self portrait as winter. 


fig 1, Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico : Out Back of Marie’s II , 1930.

fig 1, O’keefe. Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico : Out Back of Marie’s II , 1930.

Fig 2, Rosalba Carriera Self-Portrait as Winter, circa 1730

Fig 2, Rosalba Carriera Self-Portrait as Winter, circa 1730



Thinking I am not interested in landscape is, now, on reflection , not totally correct. I am interested in the portrayal of the woman in nature, and our symbolic connection to the earth, as thinking back over my commercial practice, this has focused heavily on the portrayal of women in nature. You know the typical pregnant lady in the forest, breastfeeding mother on the beach, that type of image that the non pregnant, non breastfeeding loves to hate, but the mother in question loves? I never really analysed why it is that I do this, create these images, suggest these locations, I suppose I always just thought they looked beautiful, and in Cornwall we have gorgeous locations, and I am a on location photographer. This must at some subconscious level be connected to the idea of mother as nature, the idea of nudity linking to nature and eden, the act of parenting being natural and biologically ingrained in us. 

One thing that struck me about all this, bringing it back to my own practice, is how in photography we are led to believe it is the male gaze that is prevalent in landscape photography (and I don’t know enough either way to agree or disagree so will just take that at face value for now) . However, in my practice for the MA , photographing alternative education, it is definitely the female that is more prevalent in nature in roles such as forest school leaders, beach and rockpooling clubs, nature led groups etc etc ….. so that the idea of the female as connected with the land is definitely there.

This has led me on to Emily Bronte ,  because her work encompasses many of these themes in a different way , female, landscape, and home, everything my practice is about, and ties it all together pretty nicely with this topic ….

A little while, A little while.

“There is a spot ‘mid barren hills

Where winter howls and driving rain

But if the dreary tempest chills

There is a light that warms again

The house is old, the trees are bare

And moonless bends the misty dome

But what on earth is half so dear -

So longed for as the hearth of home?

The mute bird sitting on the stone,

The dank moss dripping from the wall

The garden-walls with weeds o’ergrown

I love them – how I love them all !

- Emily Bronte -


I would add that this connects back to my previous post on Justine Kurlands work here  whos body of work centers around adolescent girls, and pregnant ladies and mothers submerged in their landscape. 


Bright, Deborah. 1985. Of mother nature and marlboro men. Exposure 23(1), Winter. Available at http://www.deborahbright.net/PDF/Bright-Marlboro.pdf (Accessed 24.02.20)

Bronte, Emily. 1996. Bronte. Everyman’s library pocket poets. USA; Random house.


Fig 1, O’keefe. Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico : Out Back of Marie’s II , 1930. Available at  https://www.widewalls.ch/famous-nature-paintings/black-mesa-landscape-new-mexico-out-back-of-maries-georgia-okeeffe/ (Accessed 25.02.20)

Fig 2, Rosalba Carriera Self-Portrait as Winter, circa 1730 https://italoamericano.org/story/2016-9-16/rosalba-carriera-italian-painter (Accessed 25.02.20)


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