Head for the mountains, into the wild! The primordial, limitless majesty. Seekers of the relentless forces of nature, pure and pristine – can be found there.
Will they find what they sought?
Nature is “that, that exists by itself”, wrote german philosopher Gernot Böhme. Indeed nature itself created the unfolding, shifting and eroding of the mountains, conditioned by the elements, plate tectonics, wind, rain, coldness and sun. The elements seem to have warred against the mountain; rains have washed, lightening torn, and the winds make it the constant object of their fury.
As beholders we yearn to experience nature unmodified, to leave civilisation behind, and yet with every encounter the natural state and our perception of its naturalness is altered, transformed and even eradicated. That artificiality, deplored as a loss or glorified as a win, provides the condition for new myths– the myth of the civilisation as the antagonist of nature. But a new myth not only takes the place of the old one, the old concept of nature nests like a residue in the modern comprehension, and landscape turns into an image, into a sign.
There is the bivouac, the shelter which serves as a refuge in the event of a sudden storm. The mountain pass that opens up formerly impenetrable terrain. Dams and barrages are built to utilise the power of the mountains, to tame the torrential streams and harness their energy. Barriers are erected to protect from avalanches and rockfall, the unforeseeable fragility and brutality of the massif’s incline.
We do yearn for limitless freedom but only if it is safe. One acclimatises to seeing the mountains with their artificial additions. Our image of a summit includes a summit cross, our slopes are framed by avalanche barriers. Do we even consider these additions to be invasive? Are they not an integral part of our natural surroundings?
The experience of landscape has, for a long time, been nourished and formed by an aesthetic view. The idea of landscape; storing up images which are not pictures of nature, but figures of exoticism. The appearance, especially the aesthetic component of landscape, is attached to a physical entity of which we are a part.
Do we emphasise the barrenness and wilderness of the landscape? We might glorify mountains or doom them. Parallels of the imaginative construction and actual representation of landscape blurs. Perhaps it unsettles us to stand before the unmoving mountain side, bare rocks without man-made memorials
Nature is no longer naturally occurring; it is formed, levelled and stabilised.
These interventions influence how we perceive the natural state of the mountains. Its aura is diminished, transformed and redefined. Man-made devices supplement the natural order, changing and to some extent overruling it.
These images depict a general conception of the mountains’ aesthetics and how human impact affects them. Observed over a period of sixteen months, the disparity between the natural-born mountains and the over-extended civilisation becomes apparent, as well as the need for a new word that encompasses the artificial and technical alterations.
I am Ann Katrin Warter a freelance photographer based in Berlin, Germany – enthusiastic mountaineer and boulderer. My training and experience include studying photography at the Ostkreuz School of Photography in Berlin (graduating class in 2016 with Ute Mahler) and architecture at the University of the Arts Berlin.