“The scale of the Spanish interior is of a kind which offers no possibility of any focal centre. This means that it does not lend itself to being looked at. Or, to put it differently, there is no place to look at it from. It surrounds you but never it faces you. A focal point is like a remark being made to you. A landscape which has no focal point is like a silence. It constitutes simply a solitude which has tuned its back on you”
so writes John Berger in an essay about the Castilian meseta and the Spanish landscape.
When I saw these photographs by Adrian Tyler, Berger’s words were the second thing that immediately came to mind. The first was travelling in Spain when I was a small boy – a summer of torrential thunderous downpours (“the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain”…), hazy, dusty heat and small Spanish towns.
In his essay, Berger goes on to contend that the landscape of the Spanish interior is unpaintable (but perhaps not un-photographable?) and that “a landscape is never unpaintable for descriptive reasons; it is always because its sense, its meaning, in not visible, or else lies elsewhere” It may well be that such a landscape is unpaintable (certainly I can recall very few paintings of it), but I wonder if it is also un-photographable? Perhaps, among other things, the ability of photography to focus on certain specifics in its own particular and peculiar way allows for Tyler to make photographs such as these, that do indeed seem to convey and make visible the sense and meaning of this place?
“…there is no place to look at it from. It surrounds you but never it faces you. A focal point is like a remark being made to you.” – yet in his photography, Tyler does seem to have found a place from which to look at this landscape. A viewpoint that also echoed with my own, distant, experience of this same place but a viewpoint very much anchored in the here and now.
Beyond that, Tyler also makes masterful use of colour in his work – this is what colour is meant for. He clearly understands the distinction between colour and colours, which is where so many photographers working in the medium fail.
(quotes from “a story for aesop” in Keeping a Rendezvous by John Berger)