Travellers journeying through the countries positioned on the Central African Plateau lands (most of Zambia plus large parts of the surrounding states of DR Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique Zimbabwe and Angola) can be forgiven for seeing the landscape of the area as flat and featureless. But it takes just a little effort to divert from the well-travelled tracks to realise the area has scenery every bit as spectacular as other regions of the World.
Some 12 years ago, photographer Stephen Robinson set out to document this largely unknown and unseen Africa in his project “Spirit of the Land”. His objective was to show both the beauty and the richness of the region’s natural landscape – and how important it is to the millions of people who live off it so directly.
The idea came during his travels over many years, when his photographer’s eye saw the many of the remote landscapes, leading him to make the mental note: “one day, must come back and do the landscapes”. So that’s what he started to do in 2004, leading to the Spirit of the Land’s now extensive record in the form of his fine art photography of the region’s natural treasures.
He says he chose to use panoramic photography for the project: “because I think it better replicates the natural way in which the human eye takes in a scene. We look left and right to explore and experience the peripheral vision at each side, which makes us feel we are “in” the landscape. I wanted to get at least some of that into the photographs – to show both the vast expanse of Africa’s land as well as something of the emotive experience of being there.”
So with a medium-format panoramic camera and hundreds of rolls of film, he explored Zambia and its borders to bring the land’s riches, and their importance, to the attention of the many thousands who have visited the project exhibitions and the project website. His fine art prints of these photographs soon came to be in high demand and now adorn many art collections, homes, and public & corporate spaces.
Though unintended, the website has become a World resource for travellers and for those in education. Robinson is currently working on a major rebuild of the project website, with new work in new exhibitions, to be launched in the next few weeks (come back to see some of that new work in future issues of Hamaji). In the meantime, the already extensive collections in several previous exhibitions, can be seen at www.spirit-of-the-land.com
Some examples of this work are shown here, together with what Robinson calls “the stories behind the pictures”.
Text & photos : Stephen Robinson
More informations : www.spirit-of-the-land.com