Chris Tancock

His website is

These notes are made from reading an interview with the photographer in the on-line magazine ‘On Landscape’. Describes himself as a ‘rural documentary photographer’ (combining documentary and fine art) rather than a landscape photographer  – perhaps because he wants to take photographs that say something about the landscape rather than just following classical compositional norms – thirds, zig zags through the image etc. He describes composition as “just a basic but important starting point”. He is noted for his black and white photography.

He disputes the idea of photos as ‘windows onto the world’. He says photography is “a chemical or digital process that alters the world from what it is into a photograph” (full stop!). A photograph is ink on paper and everything else is what is read into it by both the photographer and the viewers.

Many of his images would be classed as ‘intimate landscapes’ particularly since he is attempting to create an intimacy with a particular feature of the land, trying to show how he feels about it.

Rural ‘relics’ are a way of exploring the “visual history of the landscape”.

He prefers sets because he is trying to document a story through his images. He likes ambiguity in his images.

Commended in 2007 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition for his colour series ‘Quiet Storm’ (12 images).

  • ‘Wildwood’ (B&W) explores shapes of animals discernible in ancient woodlands. His focus is on how we see images – he describes an image as a wolf whereas others see a deer or a sheep for example.
  • ‘Stones’ (B&W) closely framed images showing impact of nature on stones over time.
  • ‘Beating the Bounds’ subtitled ‘Five fields, five years’. Shows changes over time and because the fields are unremarkable required strong compositional thinking. His way of thinking is illustrated by his discussion about hedges – boundaries, separations, what’s yours and what’s not – rather than looking for ‘pretty’, looking for meaning, symbolism for example.


“Fay Godwin’s ‘Forbidden Land’ … John Berger and Jan Mohr’s ‘Another Way of Telling’. Other names that cropped up included people such as Josef Koudelka, the poets John Clare and Alice Oswald, the magic realist author Angela Carter, the naturalist Richard Maybe and the photographers Keith Carter and John Blakemore.” (p.47)

He also mentions Bill Brandt, Raymond Moore, Michael Kenna.

Bill Brandt controlled what was seen in the frame not by by excluding it but by choosing a shutter speed that didn’t allow enough light onto the sensor to expose certain parts of the scene.

He loves negative space – black or white.

He uses a term ‘calligraphy photographers’ to refer to classic landscapes – boulders in the foreground, sharp focus back to front etc. Pretty, structured and precise but …

Street photography he says is like photographing the second hand on a clock whereas photographing a field is like photographing the hour hand – it’s changing but it’s not obvious second by second.

The article shows a book’s two-page spread which demonstrates how he likes to combine images – a large one showing a country scene with a path through fields set alongside three other smaller images linked by the visual concept of a line/path.

(Notes made based on article in ‘On Landscape’ Issue: Preview)


  2 comments for “Chris Tancock

  1. August 30, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Hi David, very informative notes. I have read the article now though and it was very interesting too. His approach really appeals to me, especially what he says about working with sets of photos to make stories, mixing documentary and fine art, and what he says re. photographing what he knows about as opposed to something more exotic.

    • davidcollinsfoto
      August 30, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Thanks for the comment Dorte.

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