Adam Laity

Approaches Towards the Cinematographic Sublime Landscape - A Practice-led Enquiry (University of the West of England) 2014 -

I’m a cinematographer specializing in the interactions of landscape and the human figure, including the role of digital cinema technology in re-invigorating the sublime landscape in contemporary visual culture.


Tracing the sublime landscape through early philosophy and Romantic poetry, and then as a static ‘landscape moment’ captured in painting and photography, my PhD examines the journey of the sublime landscape in cinematography, asking how as a medium cinema has empowered image makers and subsequently viewers to engage with the sublime landscape in new and increasingly dynamic ways, predominantly through a variety of movements towards, through and beyond the ‘sublime landscape moment’.



My enquiry explores why as a visual metaphor and as a philosophical concept the sublime needs to be interrogated-a-new and re-conceptualized with each pivotal shift in both technology, i.e. from film into digital cinema, and how this technology alters how we look at ourselves and the world around us; and with seismic changes in the geology and behavior of landscape itself, in particular the proposed geological shift from Holocene to Anthropocene.


By embracing a subjective critical position and using autoethnography, affect theory and the essay film form as methodologies that enable me to glean personal and tacit knowledge from my practical processes and experiences of being a cinematographer on a journey through the landscape, my practice explores the human as a vital and inter-linked part of the landscape- no longer the sole focus at the heart of the image with the landscape serving merely as a backdrop.




My research goes on to build the idea that a contemporary sublime landscape is intrinsically linked to ecological catastrophe and the detrimental affects of anthropogenic climate change on the natural world. I argue that in a world where our communication is dominated by the visual and typified by ‘the selfie’ perhaps this ‘eco-sublime’ can serve as a central metaphor for how ‘we the human’ react to, empathize with and take responsibility for living in the Anthropocene. 


Supervision Team: Professor Andrew Spicer (Director of Studies), Dr Clare Johnson