Ballad for a Culturally Modified Land
Tracts of land. Fields that make one lose track of space. Dense vegetation woven to itself. Contexts in which nature is the master of all. It constructs scenarios and builds its own facilities as part essential and primary.
Reversed balances. Countries in the countries.
Where the force of nature creeps into crevices and manmade walls. Live. Taking over. Returning to its natural order. Evolution.
The day gives way to night. The darkness as the light. Alienation.
The shadows are getting longer. The noises dilate and become distant or stronger and more defined. The air numbs and lowers. Sparkling and shining new light.
– Giuseppe Mileti, Apulia, Lecce, Italy
Within the width of Irish and Scottish spaces, it is possible to live the uncanny experience of a lack of temporality, provided you let yourself be pushed around by the surroundings. The boldness of some wild places only permits silence, matching the smell of rotten barley. There, time seems not to have flown for centuries, only the spirit of the Highlander lingers, and the Hermit may still be hiding in the darkness of his cave, watching over the nest in the palm of his hand. If you let the spooky landscapes guide you, you will wander in a pleasant alternation of density and emptiness of spaces. There arises a peculiar informality from the bitterness of the air and the peaceful contemplation of the forests and moors. The scenery is a gigantic and verdant gash, and this is through gaps that the sunlight shreds the clouds. A certain state of mind is required, and if you roam the valleys for a long time, your feet wet with dew and with a misty mind, you could easily figure out the psychological condition of an Earnshaw, a Linton or an Heathcliff.
– Charles Roux, Paris
Two years ago, when the light was too bright to make landscape images, I pointed my camera down at an undistinguished area of the ground that captured my eye. It was not in any way a scenic area. It was small and it was somewhere easily overlooked, but to me it was a unique image that reflected my training as a painter and my love of the distinct qualities that a camera is able to record.
I have been making these images of the ground ever since, un-cropped and subject un-manipulated by me. I take them in disparate places: I find subjects in the flattened leaves of parking lots, in the tiny plants that live on beach mist, in the parched tilled cornfields near where I live in Rochester, NY. They are always taken looking down, always of small places, always to me abstract and evocative. These three are a selection from a group of images taken after days of torrential rain on the red clay in Georgia.
– Lauren R. Howe, Rochester, New York, USA
My interest in this series, About the Weather, developed naturally while photographing in Colorado and observing weather as an element that has repeatedly tested our ability to control the natural world around us. Our use and enjoyment can sometimes have unpredictable outcomes. I have fond memories of Florida summers watching storms under a veranda with my parents sipping cocktails. There were even hurricane parties. The themes of weather as recreation, how we like to play with and enjoy the elements – skiing, boating, swimming, surfing, and just watching — and photographing — can very quickly turn dangerous. There have been a number of times while being outside during various activities, whether hiking after dark or in a storm, or skiing when bad weather hits that I have felt that “what have I gotten myself into” feeling. It is the feeling of edging into something from which there is no return. After Hurricane Sandy I wandered the powerless streets of lower Manhattan and thought about how much we feel in power to control weather for our own use — perhaps it is more passive such as having waterfront properties or more aggressive activities such as snowmaking, surfing in storms. I see it as a power struggle between man and nature and nature ultimately wins with sometimes devastating consequences. I prefer to stay on the line of safety but am intrigued by that boundary and like to edge forward to take a closer look, where boundaries between enjoyment and danger are constantly shifting.
– Eileen Keator, Littleton, Colorado, USA
What is that ‘invisible calamity’ that seems to damage some places around us?
Oblivium is a photographic project that tells about an area forgotten by people.
Analysing the concept of oblivion in its different philosophic, literary and psychological meanings, we tried to turn attention to the landscapes we met following the natural itinerary of the Majella, a great mountain of the Apennine of Abruzzo.
During the itinerary we bump into the so-called neglected places, landscapes characterised by a strong uneasiness and a neglected nature.
The time reference in the headline wants to strengthen the oblivion idea and, at the same time, set an exact date when those same places have begun to lose memory.
The signs found during the itinerary let us think that everything stopped on the 15th August 2012, as if a silent catastrophe had damaged those areas, blotting out every human and vital presence.
– Iacopo Pasqui & Luca Marianaccio, Pescara, Italy
The land breathes softly here. These spaces of the yesterday, of the not-quite-yet exist within the present moment, but are not of the present. These spaces along the edge of the city, the web of now and then and maybe lightly interlaced on the outskirts of the almost somewhere. Within the breath, be it an inhale or an exhale, there is always the whisper of a story that echoes and vibrates within my vision. Like opening a storybook to a random page and reading the first sentence that pops out without knowing anything else about the narrative unfolding across pages, so to me are the stories running through the outskirts, these possibility zones of cities. Sometimes I feel like I open the page to tired legs returning home after a long day’s work, at other times, to hands engrossed in the act of work, and every so often, the page opens and I gaze through the eyes of a child looking expectantly forward into future, still believing in the possibility of dreams. Wherever the page opens, it is these fragments of stories untold, these stories that whisper up from the landscape that impel me to stop and set up my camera with the aim of creating a photograph that allows the viewer’s mind to wander, to gaze, to muse and create his or her own story.
– Gail Goers, Rochester, New York, USA
The series Urban Wilderness depicts areas of land within various European cities which have been left unused for a period of time, where subsequently nature has been left to its own devices. These spaces lie in an intermediate state as land is bought and sold, decisions are made and plans are drawn. In some cases these spaces have been left for so long they appear to have been forgotten.
Spaces such as these are mostly closed off from the general public and often in order to enter it is necessary to overcome physical obstacles such as walls or fences. These obstacles establish the fact that these spaces are not there for the public to enjoy. They are privately owned pieces of land bought for the purpose of private business development.
These temporary havens of nature which are surrounded by the built environment contrast starkly with the controlled form of nature that we experience within city parks and gardens. They serve as a reminder that nature is always waiting to reclaim space whenever the opportunity arises.
– Martene Rourke & Adam Heiss, Manchester, United Kingdom
Federal Limits is a walking survey of the 40+ mile border of Washington, DC, where I live. This border traverses swamps, cemeteries and some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. The invisible line skirts the edges of the National Mall, the only place that a vast majority of visitors to the city will see. It passes quietly along the water, never quite letting the Capitol come into view, where so much of the nation’s perception of the city derives. Through these images I’m looking for help to piece out my own definition of the city.
– Stephen Voss, Washington, DC, USA
I photograph fragments of urban reality in ordinary streets. In these everyday situations, I search for a visual freedom — leaving the choice to spectators to read images at a formal or documentary level.
The studio work is a constant concern in my practice of landscape photography. The walls act as backdrops, the mundane setting of a large studio where I compose urban still lives.
These stagings of an agreed banality, purified from human activity, are a pretext to my own wandering. The choice of subject is a support and requires no development. This urban walking without exit is loosing us in the public space, transforming the city into a large maze.
- Pierre Rogeaux, Lille, France
Once the biggest sugar refinery in the world, Domino shut down in 2004, after a long struggle. Most Brooklynites of my generation know it as an icon on the landscape, multiplied on t-shirts and skateboard graphics. Urban explorers sly enough to breach the gates have found a playground of sublime, post-industrial texture and nostalgia.
I’ve been attracted for a long time to the iconic and esthetic features of the place. I also realized that if I had the chance to photograph it, I’d want the work to explore something more.
In 2013, the owner of the site, Two Trees, generously agreed to let me in. I had proposed a project that would attempt to look beyond the popular surface of Detroit-style decay photography. My goal was an expansive, even messy, fusion of art, icon, and industrial history. I wanted to show the ruin as its majestic self, and also as a lens through which to explore the history of the place and its people.
In a sense, I found myself looking at a long-gone version of the country, through a recently-gone industry and community, through a soon-to-be gone abandoned factory.
I also found myself working in the abstract, seeing how much chaos could be allowed into the frame, while still making a coherent picture. The visual density and confusion of the place invited this kind formal experiment.
The project will ultimately be a book — I hope a big and beautiful one. I’ll be working with Matthew Postal, an architectural historian who can show the deep connections between Domino, the global sugar trade, and the history of Brooklyn. I’ll also be working with Stella Kramer, a world-class photo editor, and with a group of former refinery employees, who can tell Domino’s real stories.
– Paul Raphaelson, Brooklyn, New York, USA
I live in Greece where the natural scenery is pure, breathtaking and inspiring on a daily basis. Here there is also a lack of urban planning, proper disposal system, and general order which leads to a kind of chaos or imposition of random junk against the harmony and continuity in the landscape. A new landscape forms which endlessly appeals to me and my camera lens. The mingling of humans and their created environment, sidelined by nature, and the play between what’s man-made and what’s natural is a theme in my photography wherever I go. It’s almost quirky, seeing how nature takes on characteristics of the man-made and the man-made becomes an integral part of the landscape — eventually these two defined categories meld and create a new language I try to capture visually.
– Kassandra Mara Lefakinis, Athens, Greece
The bings are an enormous set of spoil-heaps comprised from the tailings of the once globally important shale-oil industry which was centred in West Lothian. Since workings ended in the early 1960’s, the bings have gradually been re-appropriated as an unlikely leisure ground, site of nationally significant biodiversity and a monumental symbol of West Lothian identity.
The unintentionally beautiful, sculpted slopes of the bings are slowly being reclaimed by birch woodland and grassy meadows; in places, almost completely obscuring the industrial origins of the land they lie upon.
The bings are also at the core of the vibrant, central-belt motocross scene. The faces of the tips are relentlessly altered by their tracks with each passing weekend.
The bings are not without their issues and they fall foul of the usual problems associated with derelict land, with fly tipping and anti-social behaviour being the key problems.
Although I describe my project as a study of the bings, it’s perhaps more appropriate to describe the photographs as a record of my experience of them. I eschew the absolute objectivity often associated with contemporary landscape photography in favour of making lyrical images and by doing so aim to challenge ideas about how we perceive use of post-industrial landscapes in Scotland.
– Jack Luke, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
These landscapes are made of polygons, rendered by 3-D artists employed by Blizzard Entertainment and presented to me as pixels on a screen in the online game World of Warcraft. These lands are no less traveled than the physical spaces around us. They hold real memories and evoke powerful emotions to those who have spent time in this digital world. I, like Muybridge and Watkins, am bringing back representations of landscapes most will not have the fortitude to travel in. Unlike the physical spaces around us these digital lands are continually growing, creating new continents to be explored and exploited.
– Aaron Brumbelow, Savannah, Georgia, USA
I photograph the landscape around me, the landscape I see in my day-to-day travels and activities. This includes the picturesque as well as the discarded. These images have been collected into a series of monthly or bi-monthly journals that I have self-published thru Blurb.
The images can be arranged in a few broad categories: memorials, commercial properties (closed and thriving), intersections (urban and rural), pastoral (urban and rural). When put together they build a portrait of my activity in my environment/community.
It was the closed commercial properties that I started with in 2010. I was driving about 200 miles a day for my job, taking the same route each day for about five months. One starts to see things after a while that one may not normally see. I would pass through many small towns between Naples and Rochester as well as parts of Rochester, urban and suburban that were vacant, for rent/sale/or lease — evidence of a shift in the economy.
I often use the panorama format because I am interested in the context of the thing/place I am photographing. I do not want to isolate. I want to show where it is and what is around it.
When my job changed, my route became more varied, almost random. Other elements/subjects start to appear. The memorials I am finding very interesting at this point. Some mourn, some celebrate. They are everyplace — sometimes conspicuous sometimes hidden.
In my journals you can see the annual cycle, winter, giving way to spring and summer. Then the very gradual coming of fall before the snows and the sky turns gray. You can also see signs of a multinational corporate presence in our rural areas, industrial farming, an economy that is in a tail-spin. You can see the evidence of national and global conflict and the players in that game as well as occasional signs of hope.
– Robert Doyle, Gainesville, New York, USA
This project shows space surrounding me as the post-apocalyptic world. It has no people or architecture, and only separate ruins which jut out of the ground to indicate the past developments.
I used pieces of plastic as the filter to hide part of the image and to allocate the details necessary to me in a landscape.
I look at the landscape as an astronaut who has visited the planet in years after he abandoned it. Therefore, these works have the personal experiences of the astronaut concerning the myth about the lost past and impossibility to begin new life mixed up with documentary details for his field notes.
The combination of commonness and mysticism creates an empty scene for the spectator’s imagination.
– Yanina Boldyreva, Novosibirsk, Russia