November 11, 2015 ·

Michele Sons
Death Valley National Park, CA
Death Valley National Park, CA

Publishers Note:  It was just about a year ago when I had the chance to call Michele Sons and tell her she had won a fully paid trip to Antarctica.  Of course at first she had thought it was a prank.  Soon though she realized her dream had come true.  Luminous-Landscape randomly awarded a person who had purchased a subscription to the LuLa Videos a trip to Antarctica.  During the time leading up to the trip Michele was very active promoting her upcoming trip and a project she wanted to use the trip for.  She explained her idea of the Feminine Landscape and it sounded very cool.  First and foremost I love photographers who have projects.  A project takes thought, time, effort and especially focus and it was obvious Michele had a plan to make her project come to life.  I recently caught up with Michele and would like to share our conversation and the results of her project The Feminine Landscape.    – Kevin Raber

Can you tell us about your project The Feminine Landscape?

Wild, uninhabited places have always enthralled me. Many have left their mark on me; memories of first light dramatically falling on massive, remote dunes; the eerie groaning and popping of an Antarctic glacier; the gentle drip, drip, drip of a cold mist collecting and falling from trees. I seek out lands that inspire me and speak to some part of who I am, that have something to show me or teach me. I am drawn to muted color, Zen-like scenes, and I adore the softness and mystery that fog can impart on a place.

But my images and stories aren’t limited to the landscape alone. An ongoing element of my work explores the connection between women and nature. By including figures, I can tell a story or explore a feeling and allow people to more easily relate to these lands I love. The Feminine Landscape is a visual exploration of my personal experience of place.

The series of mostly self-portraits tells of my place in the landscapes I travel to; of the wonder, the scale, and the experience of the environment. Because the figure usually looks away from the camera and engages with the land there is an inherent universality. The figure could be any woman. I like to compose a scene that would be successful as a straight landscape, and then add the figure. Typically, the figure wears a dress, both as a contrasting element in the scene and as one of many expressions of femininity. I look for themes of solitude and isolation, shelter and sanctuary, peace, connection, freedom, exhilaration and wonder, as well as less common expressions of femininity such as adventurousness, daring, curiosity, and boldness.

Eight images from this series along with twelve landscapes will be featured in my upcoming solo exhibition The Feminine Landscape at The Montgomery Museum in Christiansburg, Virginia.  The exhibition opens November 5th, and runs through December 30th 2015.

White Sands National Monument, NM
White Sands National Monument, NM

Why and how did you choose the theme?

Before I discovered landscape photography, I loved portraiture, specifically artistic portraiture, and that was my initial focus as I learned how to take control of my camera and as I began to train my eye. Then I took a trip out west to try my hand at landscape photography, and I knew I had discovered something that resonated deeply for me. My focus shifted dramatically, from people to place. I began thinking about how special it would be to shoot portraits in some of these locations, and how interesting it would be to insert a figure into my landscape scene.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that we can leave impressions of ourselves on places; that the dialogue between people and place isn’t just about how places leave impressions upon us. That place can hold memories of us as individuals is an idea alluded to by the author Isaak Dinesen, and one that I have been inspired by since reading Out of Africa 30 years ago.

Deception Island, Antarctica
Deception Island, Antarctica

How long have you been working on the project?

The very first image was shot in May 2012, and it was that image that inspired the project. Today, I travel regularly and I will almost always try to add to the project at every location. Some of the images don’t make the cut, but each shoot is an important step in the process.

White Sands Nation Monument North Rim, Grand Canyon
White Sands National Monument ————- North Rim, Grand Canyon

How many images in the series?

There are currently about 25 images. The project is ongoing, though. There is certainly more to come, and I am also beginning to plan for a related project that further explores the connection between women and place.

 Monongahela National Forest, WV ---------- Death Valley National Park, CA
Monongahela National Forest, WV ———- Death Valley National Park, CA

Why you and not a model? Or if you used a model, why?

Typically, when I’m out shooting landscapes, I’m alone. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of choice when it comes to my model! Recently, I have been shooting more with other landscape photographers, but they are mostly men and I’m not shooting for The Masculine Landscape… yet 😉 For images shot in the Appalachians, I have a great hiking friend, Maggie, and when she comes along I use her as my model. It’s so much easier for me, as I can really concentrate on just being the photographer. When I’m the model on top of being the photographer, it really complicates everything and makes a successful image much more challenging.

White Sands National Monument, NM
White Sands National Monument, NM

What message do you want The Feminine Landscape to convey?

I hope this series conveys my love of nature and wild places, a powerful but nuanced sense of connection to place (a conversation, if you will), and also evokes a sense of adventurousness. Just getting out there and hiking and climbing and being alone in nature is something I treasure. This project, my photography in general, and my love of nature’s wonders have enriched my life immeasurably.  I hope this shows through in my images.

For more of Michele’s work, please visit her website, or join her on Michele’s Facebook page.

Enjoy some additional images from Michele

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN ----------------- White Sands National Monument, NM
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN —————– White Sands National Monument, NM
Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV
Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV
Rough Ridge, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Rough Ridge, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Blackwater Falls State Park, WV
Blackwater Falls State Park, WV

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Michele Sons

Michele Sons is an emerging fine art landscape and portrait photographer originally from England and currently based in southwest Virginia. Her background in geography and environmental science, her taste for adventure, and her highly diverse and extensive travel experience uniquely position her to connect with landscapes across the world. Michele’s current work is based on a soft, subtle, pared-down aesthetic, which is a fresh contrast to the bold, overly-saturated scenes so prevalent in the media today. Fog, mist, and soft light feature heavily in her images. The Feminine Landscape is her popular series that expressively depicts women experiencing dramatic landscapes in locations from the Blue Ridge mountains to Death Valley, Grand Canyon, and beyond. The most enduring influence for her work is the poetry of William Butler Yeats. She has contributed writing and imagery to the highly regarded website Luminous-Landscape.com and also to the international art lens brand Lensbaby. In early 2015, Michele travelled to Antarctica on a dedicated photographic expedition with The Luminous Landscape and Antarctica XXI. Her work has been featured in numerous local and regional publications, including Blue Ridge Country magazine, The Roanoke Times, Artemis Journal and Bella Magazine, as well as highly regarded websites including OutdoorPhotographer.com and NaturePhotoGuides.com. Michele’s work hangs in corporate offices in Roanoke, Virginia, and in numerous private collections from Cape Elizabeth, Maine to Madison, Alabama.

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