I have been a fine art photographer for most of my adult life. For me, camerawork is like a meditation. It is how I organize and understand reality. It is a moment of poetry, without the constraints of language. There is an instant when the barrier between the observed and the observer, between inside and outside, disappears. At that threshold, there is absolute continuity. If a day goes by without at least one such moment of clarity and coherence, I feel I have missed something essential to my wellbeing.
Those of us who create landscape images, as well as those who enjoy looking at them, are all burdened to an extent by the historical, cultural and aesthetic norms the genre has evolved since the beginning of photography. Our view of landscape is inextricably bound to notions of “frontier” and “wilderness” that obtain from the geological surveys of the West in the 19th century, as well as to the panoramic vistas of more modern conservationist practitioners such as Ansel Adams. Such imagery, though “true,” and indeed beautiful, does not really exist, and at which subjects very few of us have ever looked.
We are surrounded by landscapes, both natural and constructed. We tend to block out those aspects of our living landscape that are merely utilitarian or vacant. But I have been, and continue to be, interested in just such places and in the constructed landscape more generally. My field of activity is the western USA. I am compelled by the sweeping emptiness of the west, punctuated here and there by suburban expansion, as well as the remnants of failed efforts to colonize. There is at work a very personal element of memory at work. There is a sense of passing — of time, of identity, of meaning. I enjoy looking at the overlooked. I am inevitably drawn to the places that are manifestly not “picturesque” as these places resonate with memory and loss.
— Randal Barbera, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
When I was younger, I worked overly-complicated projects. My thesis dealt with chaos theory and was criticized as being a mathematical Waiting for Godot. Now I look at simpler things. I am inspired by color field painters, and surrealists as much as landscape photos and paintings. I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping and my dreams and reality are still separate but by a lesser degree than they used to be. I only develop film about once a month and sometimes I see negatives I have only vague memories of shooting and there’s almost no difference between the memory of making the picture and a dream. To me it’s more about the feel of the shapes and the forms than what the actual content is. I think the pictures are uniquely Midwestern but that is by coincidence not intention. When I’m driving around the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio I see a lot of construction. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how but for me the construction sites have something to do with the sense of isolation of the suburbs, the idea that they are in a constant state of expansion is for me disheartening.
— John Walz, Toledo, Ohio
On November 19, 2010, I created New Landscape Photography. A lot has changed since then. I have gone from publishing one image by each artist to featuring three, which I think gives a much fuller introduction to the work. I continue to ask artists to share statements. The blog has become an archive of over 500 statements — and of course, hundreds more images.
I recently decided to invite artists to resubmit work a year after they’ve been featured on the blog. There are many people whose work I published four or five years ago who are now on to new and interesting projects.
In addition to the blog, I created a Facebook group of the same name. It now has almost 2,800 members and is a lively forum for sharing work and ideas.
I’ve always enjoyed the blog’s international flavor, but I am starting a local photography project: to document the billion-dollar renovation in Syracuse of Interstate 81, one of our central highways. This is a group project and is online at Picture81.org. We will share work on Facebook as we develop our individual projects. Later we will approach local galleries and museums about exhibiting the pictures.
This blog would not be possible without the participation of hundreds of artists. Thank you so much! Your enthusiasm and images have lifted my spirits for six years and I hope that will continue for at least another six — in some format or other.
— Willson Cummer, Syracuse, New York
Temporary still lifes
At construction sites in Europe on Sundays, I caught a wonderful art
Everything is constantly changing — between chaos and order,
building, demolition, rebuilding — but there are always moments in
process which exhibit some kind of momentum, perfection
and calmness — moments of rest and a certain romantic presence
between the continuously inexorable changes.
— Ben Gowert, Muenster, Germany
The photobook Abrasion/Sedimentation deals with the construction of place through perceiving geological and semantic layers. The book itself utilizes the process of layering to presage a structural transparency of apparently obvious information. It describes a place and asks the question of its identity and identifiability.
Image and text layer are separated seemingly formal, but penetrate and layer each other associatively. Both layers are beyond the concrete and narrative. They lure the viewer with fragments and snippets, pretend a whole. However, this whole thing is always the product of the individual constructing capacity of the viewer.
Whether the land exists and where it is located is of little relevance. Text and image are abstracted and yet not without detail, thematic focus and realism. Landscape is visible and the attempt to recognize and decipher it is readable.
— Marcus Held, Leipzig, Germany
Mines of the Darwin Quadrangle
The silence is broken only by gusts of wind and the songs of cactus wren and the scrape of rusted metal against metal. Broken glass, bullet casings and rock shards crunch underfoot. Creosote bushes sway in the wind. Brush snags, catches, trips me as I walk. A dust devil whirls sand in my eyes and grit in my mouth. Relentless heat scorches and stifles, yet the sweat evaporates before it cools. My water is hot and does not refresh.
I am exploring an abandoned mine site deep in the remote mountains of the Mojave Desert. Hiking up a rock-strewn, broken trail scratched into the side of the mountain, the truck is left a mile back, the road too dangerous to drive. The site comes into view as I round a bend. Its appearance raises so many questions: What was mined here? Who lived and worked here, and when? Why did they leave? How did they get materials, machinery, fuel, food and water here? Were they lonely in this desolate place?
There is a hole in the ground and a decrepit, bleached ladder drops into the darkness; I cannot tell how deep the shaft is – a dropped rock takes 10 seconds to hit bottom, bouncing against the walls on the way down, taking pebbles with it. There is a weathered wood structure, paint long gone from years of battering winds. Corrugated metal panels, rusted and twisted, lay about and are perforated with shotgun blasts.
There is sadness to the place, a sense of abandoned hope, of brutal, back-breaking work, and of desertion and failure. There is also the knowledge that these structures will inevitably be gone someday, perhaps soon, like the men who built them – the result of weather, vandalism, looting and the neglect of the forgotten.
These photographs can only ask the questions; I have few answers*. I can only hope that in some small way the pictures might illustrate the emotion I feel, the wonder of discovery, the stark beauty and the finality of the place, the hope and the despair, the legacy. If they memorialize the scene, then I have succeeded in some small way.
*Technical records exist that answer some of these questions, for some of the mines: What was mined, how many men worked here, the equipment used, the economic value. It is documented that during the Great Depression of the 1930s many who were displaced and destitute from the economic collapse migrated to public lands and took up mining in an attempt to eke out a living. As the economy shifted for the war effort in the 1940s and the government ordered these small scale mines closed, these subsistence miners abandoned their mines either for more lucrative employment elsewhere, or enlisted in the military – never to return at war’s end. It was the end of an era.
— Marcia Mack, Fountain Valley & Darwin, California, USA
This project focuses on how suffering arises in a person and traces its roots into memories of childhood and youth. It is split up in three parts with each being preluded by a short text. The first part begins with a quote from a La Dispute song and leads into childhood and its playfulness. The definition of “entropy” marks the opening of the second part which deals with the timespan between youth and adulthood. The last part and its explanation of “metaxis” examines a feeling of imbalance and an in-between.
The photographs are intentionally vague and open to allow the viewer to search for their own interpretation or relate to certain emotions. They provoke questions without certain answers to emphasize how memories fade and warp over time. This fallible construct is the base for our feelings and perception of the world around us which thus is in constant change — potentially leading to feelings of tension and ambiguity. We never truly are, but merely exist in an approximation in between our past experiences and those still to come.
— Oliver Wiegner, Bielefeld, Germany
Some winter days in Buenos Aires fog covers the urban landscape. The solitude of the park, off-season, constructs a wistful image.
I’m interested in the landscape as a metaphor of absence and memory.
I like long silences.
— Eduardo Saperas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
There is a mostly hidden and often disregarded universe within our space of life: the province. The province is borderless: it has no real beginning and no well-defined ending, except at the edges of urban zones, which are like islands, like galaxies in an wide and secluded area. Province is an interspace which is connected worldwide with itself.
I am searching for my “objets trouvés” in the nameless countryside, in the extensive absence, in the aside, in the silent realms, where everything seems conventional and unspectacular. I am searching for the similar and the singular there, and even in the biggest tristesse I can find the beauty of melancholia or some rests of lost times, which are spending a strange and lovely form of idyllic shelter.
Furthermore I want to find out what is the character of province, what is special there, what is common, what is the atmospheric fingerprint of an area that I walk or drive through.
For me the province is a room of lost time and no-time, there is only past and a small quantum of presence, but not the illusion of future, which is forming the awareness of life in our cities.
So the main location of my work is the province, the backwoods, the outside. And one of my favorite photographic series is called Universum Provinz. It is a never-ending series, because universe is infinite.
— Hans Hansmann, Leipzig, Germany
Phoenix is intense and harsh under the daylight sun, yet magical and beautiful at night when color is sultry and saturated – it’s palatable. A time when color reveals itself as tangible. I want to capture this heady mix within the urban landscape. Deliberately devoid of humans, my photography centers on architecture, streetscapes, city vistas – the lesser seen and the unseen within a human built framework.
Night Water is my third series exploring Phoenix at night — focused solely on the nine canal systems. Scenes here are from portions of two of the nine.
I am motivated by not knowing what I will find — yet knowing I will find something. Something beautiful, intriguing and worthwhile. It’s within this process; seeking, seeing, capturing — this is where I am most at home, this is where I want to be — here in the desert, at night.
— Catherine Slye, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
I picture every day.
I have no program with any dictation… inside… outside… everywhere. I do not get into molds and orders. I shoot whatever appears in my eyes and stimulates my soul…
Many of my photos are the same and thus acquire a coherent grouping… almost always without people… only their traces… empty landscapes… but are they so ”empty” therefore?
I shoot statues, hangers, trees, washing lines, stairs.
I want my photos to stand alone, without the previous or the next photo, without titles or a supporting text… just to speak to the viewer without the need of any of these… without being warned, without limits and signs… just my photo and the viewer… and if I manage to make my photo and the viewer talk… then all the pleasure is mine.
— Manolis Karatarakis, Rethimno, Crete, Greece
Fault Line is a project I am doing in the small coastal town of Brooklin, Maine. The protagonist is my younger cousin Adam, who lives there. I also photograph my brother, father, and other cousins. I chose the title because a fault line alludes to where the earth splits in an earthquake (a metaphor for a divided family with a complicated history) and also alludes to fault, or blame (I wonder, how does a family support each other, even when things aren’t perfect?) My goal is to show the weight we all carry and how we are both connected and isolated from each other.
— Sophie Barbasch, New York City
The Older Industrial Parks Near Newport, Victoria
This is an extended dialogue with the late Lewis Baltz’s seminal 1974 work The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California. The result offers images that transform Baltz’s stark Californian minimalism into an ethereal antipodean nocturne.
Baltz’s spartan boxes manifest a common American theme: the promised land defiled. He was interested in “the phenomena of the place. The effect of this kind of urbanism… What kind of new world was being built here?”
Australian landscape rarely elicits such blatant anger. Our notion of landscape seems very different. Baltz documents the short-term impact of money while my project explores the mildly subversive impact of people after the event (more erosion than explosion).
My aims and Baltz’s may seem different and yet they are very much connected. Both projects are deeply rooted in an exploration of place and time, there and here, then and now, Baltz and Lane.
— Bill Lane, Melbourne, Australia
After Eisenhower is directly shaped by my upbringing in a conservative military community in Twentynine Palms, California. Both of my parents served in the United States Marines Corps. My own conflicted view of the military has spurred my curiosity about its role in American life.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the grave implications of the growing power of the military and the military industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address. Eisenhower’s speech provides the framework for this project. Was his concern justified? My work explores the signs and clues that reveal the influence of the military on American culture and also the attitudes of Americans toward the military.
In many American places, especially areas surrounding military bases, military culture is an inseparable part of the landscape. One can see many signals of how the military is intertwined in the established American patriotic, national and Christian identity. Support for the military and veterans is simplified through iconography and combined with complex and polarizing issues such as religion, race, class, patriotism, and gun culture. I find the saturation of these oversimplified messages disconcerting; however, I am also fascinated by what they reveal. These messages, in both public and private spaces, are meant to have clear meanings, but these places and artifacts suggest other, more problematic truths about American life and our relationship to our military.
— Jasmine Clark, Chicago
The province of Groningen, in the north of The Netherlands, is traditionally an agricultural area. The land is flat, empty, stretched out. The soil is fertile. A large part of the province consists of clay soil, deposited during the many floods of the Wadden Sea over the centuries.
Once the eastern part of the province was known as the granary of The Netherlands. In other parts of the province sugar beets and potatoes are grown. But the number of farms has declined rapidly in recent decades. Sons no longer want to take over the farms of their parents. Youth pulls away to the industrial and densely populated western part of The Netherlands. The population on the Groningen countryside is ageing.
As a result of these developments, fertile farmland has been changed into water in recent years. New lakes were created, and new cities were built next to those newly landscaped lakes, in order to attract new residents to the sparsely populated area. These projects have not been very successful so far. The new inhabitants don’t come, whilst the province and municipalities involved lost large amounts of money on it.
The title Grinslân derives from the name that Frisians – who are the adjacent province – use for Groningen. I picked that name because I try to look at the landscape in my own province through the eyes of a foreigner.
— Reinier Treur, Haren, Netherlands