JTF (just the facts): Published in 1990 by the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy on the occasion of an exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. 112 pages, with 62 images. Includes essays by Michael Auping and David Reason, an afterword by Douglas Schultz, and selected exhibitions and bibliography. (Cover shot at right, via Printed Matter.)
Comments/Context: Whenever I need a break during a Chelsea gallery swing, I try to find time to poke around in Printed Matter (here), a crowded treasure trove of artist books, ‘zines, and other ephemera, which is where I recently found this old Hamish Fulton catalogue. While Fulton can’t exactly be called a photographer, I’ve run across quite a few photography collectors who have included his work in their collections. I have respected his approach to art making for some time, and was glad to be able to acquire a solid monograph of his work relatively inexpensively.
In the simplest sense, Hamish Fulton takes walks, and then makes artworks that document his experiences on those walks. Fulton has taken walks all over the world, often for hundreds of miles and days on end, crisscrossing his native lands and those far beyond. His images are often a single photograph of the landscape at some point in the journey, along with the factual details of the path, the number of days in transit, and the year, all written in capitals underneath or directly on the picture. They are pared down documents, straightforward and unadorned, recounting the actual experience of his walks.
In our current photography world increasingly enamored with staged fictions, Fulton’s work is a refreshingly authentic antidote, a moment of clarity and truth, celebrating a real reconnection with the land. His images of nature are not the romantic stuff of Adams or Porter; in many cases, they seem disinterested or simply adequate. They depict a trail, or a path, or a mile marker, or a vista, with text that chronicles the road taken, or the animals encountered along the way. There are no people, or cars, or cities, just the solitary land stretching out ahead to the horizon.
And yet these works do an excellent job of conveying the feeling of being there, of being in the landscape, of experiencing the terrain and the weather just as Fulton did. In our sedentary lifestyles, we don’t get out into the land enough; we are slowly losing the primal rituals of walking, and resting, and smelling the earth, and seeing the sky. Seeing these pictures is an inspiration to get out from behind the computer and rediscover what it is like to go for a really long walk. These works that look like mundane landscapes actually have a surprising resonance, a reminder of what we left behind in our long ago nomadic past.
Collector’s POV: Hamish Fulton is represented by Danese in New York (here), Texas Gallery in Houston (here), and Häusler Contemporary in Zurich (here) among others. Fulton’s work comes up at auction from time to time, sometimes in the Photography sales, but more often in the Contemporary Art sales. Recent prices have ranged between $3000 and $15000.