Bringing the sublime back down to earth: Olaf Otto Becker’s renegotiation of the sublime in a neoliberalised and climate changing world

Peck, Julia ORCID: 0000-0001-5134-2471 (2016) Bringing the sublime back down to earth: Olaf Otto Becker’s renegotiation of the sublime in a neoliberalised and climate changing world. In: Northern Light: Landscape Photography and Evocations of the North, 4-5th July 2016, Sheffield Hallam University. (Submitted)

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Olaf Otto Becker, a German photographer renown for his photographs of the Arctic north, has recently turned his attention to the forests of Indonesia, Bolivia, Brazil and Australia. This is a change of subject for the photographer known for his landscapes celebrating the cold north. But, as William Ewing as noted, perhaps this change in direction is logical given that the melting of the Arctic is partly connected to the destruction of the world’s major forests (Ewing, 2015), and that Becker’s own work has become increasingly preoccupied with charting human-led changes to the environment. Taking an overview of Becker’s output from Broken Line (2007) to Reading the Landscape (2015), I will argue that Becker’s visual language has subtly altered, producing a productive tension within the sublime. The wide open spaces, grandeur of scenery, the muted colour palettes, the sense of danger or threat are still persistent, but new subjects, such as the inclusion of people who have been affected by illegal logging and burning, have appeared in Becker’s images too. In the midst of the experience of the sublime in Becker’s imagery, we are faced with the impact of the power of global capital. Becker’s visual approach avoids passing obvious judgement on these scenes (we have instead an apparently ‘straight’ image), but these landscapes are troubled with a sense of banal harm (new housing developments, office blocks, lush gardens, and recreation centres), creating an increasingly politicised and social experience for the viewer. Additionally, his image captions in his later projects suggest a strong commitment to the knowledge of the social and economic context. Whilst there is much to be in thrall at in Becker’s images, the human impact on the landscape seems to result in a sense of banality and harm rather than a celebration of man’s power.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Olaf Otto Becker, sublime, global capital, climate change
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Creative Practice and Theory
Depositing User: Julia Peck
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2016 10:23
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 09:23

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