Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images of Finnish travel landscapes from the premodern journey to the railway era
This essay investigates representations of the environmental experience of premodern road and early railway travel in literary descriptions, contrasting them with the early photographic visions of the Savo railway, Eastern Finland. The exploration initially draws from the concept of proximity, as discussed by the Finnish geographer J.G. Granö and German cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch. Vivid sensations of the nearest environment are seen as enabling the sense of immediacy, of truly »being there«, for the landscape experience during a journey. This sense of proximity was largely eradicated by the railway travel. Photography's historical sense of wonder may have been based on its ability to re-evoke the strong, affective sense of environmental closeness, that was eradicated by the industrial revolution. Through their foreground compositions, photographic images of the railway virtually re-evoked the »premodern« viewpoint within in the proximity of the trackside. In the present, these images of past environments still exhibit a distinctive affective power, implying historically unrealized potential for critical aesthetic sensibility towards the changing everyday landscape.