Gustave Le Gray

Gustave Le Gray was born near in France near Paris in 1820. He studied the art of painting there. In 1847 he took up photography. He became one of the most well-known pioneers of photography. His portrait, architecture and landscape photography along with his teaching, writings and inventions were highly influential.

He is most known for his seascape photography, and how he used to negatives to create one image, so he could expose correctly for the sky, and the sea and sand, rather than losing one in the image, due to it either being too dark or washed out. This technique shows his mastery in this skill. The final image is then more truthful to what the eye can see. (The Great Wave, 1857).


However the image that I find most interesting is ‘Forest Scene, Fontainebleau’ taken in 1852. It was from a contextual studies lecture in the environment unit, that I first discovered it.


There is something very mystical about this photograph, I think it’s the warm colour and softness of the image that gives it this feel. The word whimsical springs to mine, it is an idyllic setting for magical story, you can imagine the ‘fairies’ that might linger there. It has a very familiar feeling to the photo, there aren’t any landmarks that make it a known place, it could be any forest. I can see how this image can be read differently to some it might give off an unpleasant feeling of being lost, isolated or lonely. However I find it very peaceful.


This is another image from the same forest. There is less of a grand scale to this photograph, but gives of the same feeling. He has captured the light beautifully, you can see it glowing in the mist, and has captured the places the sunlight doesn’t reach, in dark shadows. This one feels quite sombre, I think the tint of the photograph plays a huge part in the feeling it gives off. If the previous image was in black and white I think it would have come across more threatening. The tones are very muted in this photograph so it has a similar softness to it. Then opposing this is the very dark path leading off into the trees, there is much more contrast in the shadows, and the brighter part of the photo appears to be flatter.
I did not think I would be able to find a similar subject matter at the country park because of the hundreds of times going there, there has never been any forest patches, but it was whilst I was trying to find a way to get across a dyke that I discovered a small woodland area, and the sun was shining through the branches beautifully.
I transferred these photos into black and white after shooting in colour, as the tones and shadows really show up much more like this, and rather than it being a mess of colour you can see the patterns that have been created by the trees branches and shadows. These are two images from one of my final shoots, and I find that these really stand out from the rest.




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