How to account for all the diverse uses of photography called ‘landscape’? There are several narratives that could be explored or examined here, from the contemporary practices of art photography and their history, through to the uses of landscape pictures in many various industries. Tourism, for example, depends on photographic views to sell holiday destinations in its brochure images; views which are then often bought as postcards or reinterpreted in personal photographs (snapshots) by holidaymakers. There are many others: urban planning, military reconnaissance, Google maps, architectural planning, war reportage, gardening books and heritage sites, to name only a few; all have what can be called landscape view pictures as central to their practice.
More abstractly, we could generalize the definition of landscape as the geometry of a space, the organization of a point of view towards a town/garden/city/country/ suburb/park or industrial wasteland/wilderness/public space, or architecture, land and nature. In all these spaces, the point of view of the camera, whatever time of day or night, organizes what is there into a cultural artefact: a landscape view. Yet this does not take us very far, as it is probably already quite obvious that landscape pictures pervade everyday culture. The inventions of photography, cinema, television, rocket science, satellite imaging, computers and the www have all been quick to develop, if not exploit, modes of landscape imaging. They have all, in different ways, expanded the visual mapping of space, so that it might be said that ‘landscape photography’ today exists within an expanded field of landscape imaging. The visual mapping of space now extends beyond the geometry of photographic images, to include thermal imaging of a territory, aerial mapping of land and even the invisible profile contours of land and sea, now seen in sonic imaging. Across such inventions for picturing space, the main question about landscape still remains the same: what view are we given of that space? Moreover, what is it that we do with those images, what is their purpose? Photography remains absolutely central to such discussion of technologies of vision, not least because ‘photographic vision’ still occupies a key reference point for the contemporary and historical depiction of the environment. Indeed, photography is pivotal in the history of picturing anything.