Cultural Ecosystem Services

I am pleased to enclose a presentation on my new photographic project focusing on the Cultural Ecosystem Services. Ecosystems indirectly create significant cultural value that cannot be expressed in monetary terms. This value is multi-dimensional and is related to knowledge systems, inspiration, spirituality and religion, through the creation of the sense of place and aesthetic values. The natural materials used in the musical instruments create a new social relations that go beyond pure production and consumption and really inspire, educate and heal us.

There is inherent social interaction involved as part of any jazz improvisation because the musicians have to communicate in the very complex stream of intuitive activity. Often jazz musicians are involved in a dialogue: piano and saxophone, violin and the piano, guitar and the drums or even more intertwined web of dialogues. By all means, there is a simultaneous communication involved between the musicians and the audience and the audience and the musicians. The musicians create new moods, emotional landscapes and a truly unique musical experience for improvising, they never repeat themselves. Often before starting to improvise the musicians never practiced or even met before. There is also communication in the opposite direction: the audience cheers and applauds the musicians after a particularly impressive solo. Therefore, new social relations are emerging between the musicians and the audience and the musicians themselves, in part made possible by the instruments that use natural materials.

To create the special mood, communicate my fascination with jazz music, transform the musical experience into a visual one, I have chosen to use a very special photographic set-up. The images were shot during five concerts featuring different soloists and changing band members. With a general lack of any additional lighting, in certain cases I was able to advise the musicians, which lights to use to make the musical experience more special. I have chosen antique Carl Zeiss lenses made for Pentacon Six cameras: 180mm 2.8 and 300 mm 4.0 for this project for their distinct visual signature and the ability to render space in a particular way creating often grainy images with shallow depth of field and interesting visual effects.

I would argue that to communicate the idea that I have chosen for this series, namely the use of musical instruments made with natural materials to create something more than the value of these materials themselves, which cannot actually be measured by the price of the concert ticket, one doesn’t actually need to show everything. Some things might stay implied. For example, what in classifications of ecosystem services is called ‘social relations’ or ‘social experience’ could be conveyed by the visual presentation of a unique musical experience, featuring several musicians photographed at different concerts. My choice of focus on musicians’ hands was absolutely deliberate. The great difficulty in capturing the rapidly moving hands of a base player, drummer or a violinist in subdued light conditions should become apparent to the viewer, who has ever tried to photograph a moving subject. The unique colour (largely determined by the lighting that was used) and composition were my main focus in this series and played a central role in selecting the presented images out of hundreds and hundreds shot at these concert. The unity of style was extremely important in editing this series because I wanted to present it as a coherent whole.

This series is focusing on a particular type of ecosystem services, emphasizing the creation of social relations through the musical experience. We are currently working on a new photo book focused on ecosystem services and if you would like to support the publication with donations, you are more than welcome to do so via the ‘donate’ button on our website:



Image (c) Dr Stanislav Shmelev


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