Photographing with a panorama camera long before it became fashionable, Mark Lang believes in achieving a spiritual oneness with the landscape… and he won’t be rushed when it comes to creating images which reflect this link. Interview by Paul Burrows.
We’re sitting on a rocky ridge, bathed in late afternoon sunlight and looking west out over the majestic Megalong Valley in the Blue Mountains. It’s early autumn and there’s still welcome warmth in that sun even as it begins to set. A family of Currawongs calls and cavorts in the trees behind us while, audible from the valley floor, is the remarkable mimicry of the Lyrebird… a chainsaw one moment, a revving trail bike the next and then its own superb, lilting song.
All the senses are quickly enveloped into this little slice of place and time – the warm rock providing a reassuring physical connection with the landscape to compliment the visual and audible ones – and it’s not hard to drift off in contemplation of the unseen and the unknown. And with such an ancient landscape, a spiritual element – irrespective of any religious beliefs – seems to give the physical even deeper meaning.
Mark Lang sits, dangling his long legs over the edge of our geological box seats, and shades his eyes from the setting sun. Over the last 40 years or so, the Australian landscape has been challenging, beguiling and seducing the British-born photographer who, at one stage, left behind all the trappings of Western society to camp for nearly three years in a remote part of the Kakadu National Park.
It was a complete conversion for somebody who freely admits that he was the most English of young Englishmen who recalls turning up to his first day at art school in a three-piece suit.
“I was very English,” he confesses, “but I loved art school, although early on I was very timid and a lot of my photographs were still-lifey and very organised.”
Which must have made the Australian landscape, with its ruggedness and randomness, seem almost like another planet.