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Landscape photography has always been one of the most, if not the most popular branch of photography. It has a universal appeal, allowing viewers to feel carried to places and landscapes that they might never otherwise have the chance to see. Unfortunately, it is a fact that there are very few female landscape photographers in the industry, rather definitely only a few ‘recognised’ female landscape photographers. While women have made huge progress in certain fields of this historically male-dominated environment, we are still lagging behind as far as the landscape photography genre is concerned.
Landscape photography is a popular branch of photography. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
So when I was asked to contribute with an article about photography, I was enthusiastic about drawing attention to us women photographers: because unfortunately, we have less visibility, we are underestimated and we have to work much harder in order to obtain respect from the male community.
When we talk about the differences in photography between the genders, the line that separates objectivity and banality is very thin. It often happens that we hear that women have a different sensitivity than men, yet it is often men themselves who often say so. But is it all true? Or is it just a cliché?
Bruarfoss in Iceland. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
In the past and through different cultures, women have oftentimes been restricted from participating in certain subjects, for example, art. Women have been made to repress their instinct; as such, in an almost innate way, we have developed a more intimate and reserved approach to things – to look for a connection with the outside world in a more introspective way.
On the other hand, from time immemorial, men have had to prove their value, measuring their strength, to stand out in life. It is perhaps for this reason that men approach photography more from a “performance” point of view, based on a perfect command of technical aspects.
We are bound to deal with these stereotypes all the time and sometimes they take root in our mentality. So there is not a difference in the choice of the photographic genre that people take; rather, there is a difference in the approach.
Women are more attracted to the graphicism of shapes. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
I do not like generalising, but I have observed that women in photography are less attracted to action shots and are more interested instead in the graphicism of the shapes, in scenographic compositions, as well as in the observance of small details. I wonder if my way of taking pictures depends unconsciously upon these concepts or if it is only a question of my inner character predisposition. The answer is probably in the middle, however, one thing is for certain: each of us applies a filter to the photographic tool, it is the filter of one's own character, one's own experience, one's own way of being. But we all want to create emotions and amazement through photography, despite our genre or type of approach.
Creating emotions is a fundamental part of photography, though the difficulty lies in being able to convey them effectively in images.
I have felt great emotions for the natural world since my very first memories. I grew up watching naturalistic documentaries rather than cartoons, and my favourite fairytales were my grandparents’ stories about episodes and curiosities on the farmland where they used to live. I have learned to love and respect Nature since I was little, always remaining in awe faced with the manifestations of Nature: a storm, the rainbow, the warm light of the sunset, the animals, the flowers, the view of the sea... but what is still fascinating me, even more than anything else, is the transformation of the landscape during the alternation of the seasons.
The landscape transforms with the seasons. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
My first pictures were memories of my trips, but they conveyed the emotions of the moment only to me. Passionate about nature, I have also photographed the subjects close to home, but I soon realised that I had to make better, more exciting pictures to transmit all of the sensations that I felt in front of so much beauty. Study and photographic research have therefore merged together with my deep passion for nature; they are now one and the same.
I live near the sea but my biggest passion is for mountains. The higher I climb, the happier I am, the more I find peace and serenity. After the effort of climbing, I am always rewarded by the sight of the peaks. I wait for sunset and then the night, remaining silent, far from the frenzies of everyday life. This regenerates my spirit.
In my region there are beautiful mountains: they are not as famous as the Dolomites, they are less crowded and known, but they are also beautiful – the Carnic Alps and Prealps.
Mountains are my passion. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
The Dolomites remain the heritage of humanity, we can appreciate their beauty in every season, in every moment of the day. Especially for us women, it is very difficult sometimes to reach the summit, with a heavy photographic backpack, sometimes with a tent, with food and water reserves, because some places are remote or in certain times of the year shelters are closed. But our passion always pushes us forward, we never stop. I am often asked if, being a woman, I am afraid of going alone in the mountains or in the forests: my answer is always the same, I am more frightened to walk alone in a city at night than to find myself alone in Nature.
Being alone in nature. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
The season I prefer for landscape photography is winter. Winter provides magical atmospheres, the snow covers every imperfection and it transforms the landscapes. You can create minimalist images, playing with the lines and shapes of the snow, with the lights and the shadows. This is very exciting for me.
Abstract shapes in winter. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
For a long time, I have been trying to take a picture that represents what the essence of winter is for me. Sometimes, the conditions are not ideal and even if the place is the right one, you have to go back there over and over again until the right conditions are found. A perfect snowfall, without wind, the frozen lake partly covered with snow: this image comes close to what the essence of winter is for me, a fairy-like season that makes the atmosphere magical.
Magical atmosphere in winter. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that I grew up watching documentaries almost every day. There was a distant place far from home that fascinated me in particular. A place of an explosive beauty, like its volcanoes: Iceland. Iceland is a paradise for landscape photographers; we all know the beauty of its touristic, well-known places, but also far from tourist destinations, we find a primordial charm.
Frozen waterfalls in winter. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
I remain enchanted by the metamorphosis of the landscape with the changing seasons: in Iceland this transformation finds its maximum expression, the weather changes so rapidly that sometimes you "change season" within a single day. Like in the mountains, winter is my favourite season in Iceland.
The landscape transforms. Photo by: 'Cristiana Damiano'.
Perhaps that sensitive soul I mentioned before shines through my pictures, that feminine look on a landscape which can be very rough and extreme. But this is the beauty: offering the landscape a full range of interpretation. I would like to conclude by quoting a sentence: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” (Confucius).
For more information on Cristiana's work, visit her website.
Photograph Iceland during the changing of the seasons. Join one of our Autumn Photography Workshops in Iceland!