The picturesque, in my opinion, works to a certain extent, as long as the landscape conforms and is picturesque itself. While it is (very) possible to compose a landscape in such a manner that even the harshest of landscapes appear picturesque, the photographer, in that instance, has to ‘mould’ the landscape, through composure, into their ideologies of the picturesque (if that is what they are trying to achieve). An example of a photographer who was capable of this ‘moulding’ through composure was Carleton Watkins, with ‘Malakoff Diggins’ – Watkins (1871) for instance, showing a picturesque image, where the actual scene hadn’t been so picturesque. However, this ‘post-rendering’ of the landscape becomes more difficult, the harsher the actual landscape itself was landscaped physically originally; not to mention, more deceiving. The method I could see to counter this difficulty, would be intervention of the landscape itself, so that it renders naturally picturesque beforehand. This would be by means of land art of some sort.
An effective or successful landscape photograph, for me, would be composed in such a manner that when viewed, the landscape photographer appeared to have some control over the landscape’s variables. On the other hand/as well as this, the landscape could potentially be landscaped originally so that it appeared picturesque or idyllic anyway – before the photograph had even been composed.
My reasoning for both these approaches requiring the successful photograph to have some form of control over the variables in the photograph, was that the eventual viewer naturally tries to resolve the components of the photograph into picturesque ideals. Therefore, depending on what the photographer wants to achieve, the components of the photograph should reflect or oppose these picturesque ideals. This would be in order for the eventual viewer to infer meaning behind the photograph, which to some extent, if picturesque, would be based upon a reflection of themselves ideally viewing the landscape, where some kind of order was present within themselves and also the landscape.
Watkins, C. (1871). Malakoff Diggins. [Photograph] San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.