by Almas SadiqueOct 19, 2023
When intentional isolation serves as a conduit for a profound connection, enabling a creative mind to keenly observe not only the external grandeur of untamed landscapes but also the inner journey of solitude, it gives rise to Cody Cobb’s photography. Cobb is a photographer whose lens is firmly focused on the American West. His photographic mission is to capture fleeting moments of tranquillity amidst the wild tumult of nature. By meticulously crafting the interplay of light and geometry, Cobb conjures an enigmatic sense of order from the wilderness. His photographs are visual dialogues that aim to encapsulate the intricate dance between the observer and the observed.
Cobb's photography stands out as a testament to the power of simplicity and contemplation. His work reminds us of the importance of reconnecting with nature, finding solace in its grandeur, and preserving the fragile landscapes that inspired his art. Through his lens, one is invited to explore the quiet corners of our planet, reflect on our place within it, and appreciate the profound beauty that surrounds us. Cobb's photography is a visual poem that inspires and enchants, a testament to the enduring allure of the natural world.
In an interview with STIR, Cobb walks us through the intricate relationship between nature and solitude to discuss how both feed into his work, saying, “An important part of my process is allowing photography to be secondary to the experience of being alone in these enormous places for days, sometimes even weeks at a time.” He admits that when he is entirely fixated on taking photos, he starts to lose awareness of the world around him. “I never plan to set out with a photograph in mind; I want to allow myself to be surprised by what I find in these places. When I am allowed to exist in that state of uninterrupted observation, it feels as if the boundary between the outside world and myself disappears,” explains Cobb.
To translate this idea of solitude into the photograph, it is entirely dependent on being in the right place at the right time, catching ephemeral moments when light and shadow happen to align perfectly for just a few minutes or even seconds. For instance, in the work Blueshift, the swathes of midnight blue and play of black and white, with a full moon at the centre, lend a captivating composition. The moon, with its silvery light, bathes the landscape in a gentle radiance, creating dramatic contrasts and evoking a sense of mystery. Cobb is mindful of managing exposure and composition, which becomes crucial in such works, as the moon's brightness can overpower the delicate nuances of the night.
Over the years, he has become a nocturnal photographer who uses artificial light as a way of controlling the scenes he tries to create. Working in darkness has given him the ability to experiment more and experience an even deeper sense of isolation in remote places. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that his work transcends traditional boundaries, inviting viewers on a profound journey through nature's most sublime moments. With a distinct and evocative style, Cobb has created a body of work that resonates with those who seek solace and wonder in the natural world.
Cobb's work is characterised by a sense of quiet introspection. His images draw viewers into a meditative state, inviting them to contemplate the vastness and timelessness of the natural world. Whether it's a windswept desert dune, a misty forest, or a rugged coastline, his photographs evoke a sense of reverence for the Earth's majesty. One such work is an untitled photograph with a solitary figure standing atop a rocky precipice. An immediate comparison to Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by the German Romanticist artist Caspar David Friedrich cannot go unnoticed. This symbolises the human quest for self-discovery and the unknown, while the majestic mountains in the distance underline the sublime power of nature. The meticulous attention to detail and mastery of light and shadow create an evocative, awe-inspiring atmosphere, making the painting a timeless representation of the human self, alone in the vastness of the landscape.
The photograph Devour unveils a concealed radiance within the American West's untamed landscapes. The play of blue light with the red leaves strewn on the ground is an uncanny illumination that bespeaks an otherworldly spectacle. The interplay of these two contrasting colours creates a surreal and cinematic atmosphere in the photograph. As someone whose interest lies at the threshold between nature and humanity, Cobb’s landscape photography allows him to let the external world become entangled with the internal world. “My photos show the Earth as it could have existed aeons ago or as it could be imagined in an alternate reality, but humanity is still inherent in the work because of my own interactions, influences and observations. I want to make work without people that is still able to invoke some sort of deeply human emotion for the viewer,” concludes Cobb.