Despite the archaic sprawl and unaccommodated loneliness pervading America’s byways, there remains the oldest, most striking structures of all. One guards a rocky crest overlooking U.S. Route 19 near Rocky Gap, West Virginia, forming a mise en scène resembling a contemporary play. As if waiting for me to pass, a solitary Ocotillo Cactus stands aside the road in California’s desert. Along Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania, we see power lines stretching over a tree stump, as if to make claim to the territory. Trees sprout up in the most surprising places. During long stretches of time driving, it is difficult not to begin to anthropomorphize, to attribute these trees human characteristics. In cities we have parks deliberately constructed and trees planted according to the phenomenological goals of urban planners. These arboreal roadside companions seem to eschew any of that. Instead they stand as objects of serendipitous beauty, unintentionally placed yet completely appropriate.
— John Sanderson, New York City
“Now we have our country back”
The Holderness coastline in Yorkshire’s East Riding is one of the most vulnerable coastlines in Europe, retreating on average between one and two metres a year, although in exceptional weather conditions up to ten metres of cliff face have been known to disappear overnight. Whether a particular stretch of coastline is protected or not depends on the economic value of the land. Thus, areas which contain cheap housing and caravans which are sparsely distributed remain unprotected. This regime is known as “managed retreat”. To live on this coast, even in those protected areas, must require a degree of defiance and fatalism that would be hard for most of us to imagine.
This is also a part of the country which voted strongly in favour of leaving the European Union in last year’s bitterly contested referendum debate. The title, “Now we have our country back”, refers to the hoped-for final outcome of the winners’ campaign, to a particular graffiti celebrating this success and to the clear irony encapsulated by this graffiti written on a protective concrete block placed across a road which can be seen, in the middle distance, to be gradually slipping into the North Sea.
— Adam Dunning, Chesterfield, England
For the past several decades, I have focused on the mankind-made and -altered landscape. Verdure is a departure from this in that there is no obvious evidence of “the hand of mankind” altering the landscape. This project started out as an ostensibly documentary series of bittersweet vines’ ability to overcome just about any plant, tree or even structure, covering them in relatively short order. The series quickly morphed and became more purely a study of abstraction in greenery, with an “all-over-ness” approach, a description used by a couple of abstract painter friends.
While my usual approach is to examine the mankind-altered landscape, another aspect of my work is that mentioned above: abstraction in that landscape. (See Rockface on my website.) Very loosely defined, the Verdure images fit into the altered landscape approach, as they are of the results of landscape being exposed when roads are built. Trees grow differently then and bittersweet and grape vines find new armatures, as it were, on which to spread – rampantly – as they are exposed to full sun.
Andrew Buck, Farmington, Connecticut, USA
25,000,000 m3 Is a study of man altered landscape created as a consequence of violence and the ideas in the physical remnants of the city.
Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), located in South West Berlin and surrounded by forest, is one of the highest points of the capital. This hill is used by the city’s residents for various leisure activities such as hiking, skiing, and cycling. However its natural surroundings belie its darker origins. A partly constructed military college designed by Albert Speer originally occupied the site. In the aftermath of the Second World War the rebuilding of devastated German cities took place.
One solution to deal with building rubble left was to use the material to form a Trümmerberg or rubble mountain. Huge volumes of debris were turned into such earthworks the largest in Berlin being Teufelsberg, which also covered the ruins of the aforementioned military college. Later with the division of the city the summit of the hill was the location of an NSA listening station, now abandoned.
25,000,000 3m studies not only the surface of Teufelsberg and its landscape, but also the layers of the destroyed city it is created from. Combining images of the hill’s topography and surrounding landscape whilst revealing what is buried under the surface, I am attempting to give physical presence again to the city’s past structure and the issues that arise from this.
The second part of this approach is via a process of recasting the shattered building fragments found on the hill using plaster. By duplicating them but removing colour and fine texture leaving only surface details, relief of layers of residue and marks. The emphasis less about the objects as individuals, but more about the wider investigation into the absence of a city’s past buildings.
This is an attempt to explore an idea of revealing what is hidden, buried in the landscape. Glimpses and fragments of what was once the city’s structures remain, leaving it impossible to experience the buildings and landscape as a whole.
— Ben Bird, London
Between the years of 1830 to 1860, Richmond, Virginia was the largest source of enslaved Africans supplying the east coast of the United States with slave labor. The three-mile Richmond Slave Trail, created in 2011, contains 17 points. It spans from the slave ships’ entry point at Manchester Docks to the Lumpkins Slave Jail, an area also known as the Devil’s Half Acre. These images are part of a larger narrative, which documents the Underground Railroad, former sites of slave markets and the role slavery has played in American history.
Throughout the last 170 years the sites have lived several lives or incarnations: the Old Negro Burial Ground was a dog pound in the 1930’s and used by Virginia Commonwealth University as a parking lot in the 1970’s. The asphalt was removed six years ago and it is now an empty grass field. There is a haunting silence, belying the violence of being a former site of slave hangings and bodies being discarded to unmarked graves.
The Richmond Slave Trail exists as an acknowledgement and a continuing work in progress towards a culture recognizing its problematic past and how it formed the socio-economic climate of this country.
— Ajay Malghan, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
A thousand years ago the inhabitants of the mountain valleys of the Andes painstakingly transformed the landscape, sculpting terraces out of the mountainsides and turning marginal land into productive fields. The population boomed and the surplus from these crops formed the economic basis of the Wari and Inca empires.
Since the turn of the 20th century, a vast migration from the countryside to the cities has taken place. Small capitals have transformed into metropoles. The settlements of these new inhabitants sprawl into the hills and nearby mountains.
Mountain fields like stairways of stone is a handmade artist book with black and white photographs exploring these landscapes; the ancient rural and the modern urban. The book draws visual parallels between the practice of hillside crop terracing and the more recent phenomenon of massive and informal urban development. I am interested in exploring both the continuities and disruptions in human alternations to the landscape as written on the land in South America.
— Thomas Locke Hobbs, Los Angeles
In this series titled Driftless in Wisconsin, my intentions are both to document land and space in my home state and to attempt to define the word “driftless,” taking it in its literal sense: to be unmoving and unchanging.
With the geology of The Driftless Area as a backdrop, these images display a sense of permanence of the commonplace. Images include scenes of abandoned artifacts and structures, of people in recreation, and scenes that appear to be fixtures.
This series began with a westward weekend drive soon after moving to Madison, Wisconsin. I became immediately caught up and amazed by the landscape. After learning that this landscape held the poetic name of The Driftless Area (an area of land that escaped glaciation in the last glacial period), I became engrossed. This discovery coincided with myself, after much time spent moving around, finally becoming content with where I lived — in a sense, becoming driftless.
— Paul Yurkovich, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Shades of The Departed
On the afternoon of March 11th, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake — Japan’s most powerful in recorded history — struck the Tohoku region near the northeast coast of Honshu. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives due to the tsunami triggered by the quake, and the exact number of the missing may never be known.
After visiting Iwate prefecture in June, on a photo assignment for The New York Times Magazine, I decided to extend my trip. I wanted to visit my great uncle, who lives in the small fishing town of Shimofuro in Aomori Prefecture to the north, and to stop at Osore-zan (Mt. Osore) along the way.
Mt. Osore is one of Japan’s three holy mountains, and people believe that the dead go to this mountain (O-yama) to make their way to the afterlife. Since childhood, they have been told to stay away, for it is also believed that this active volcano marks the entrance to Hell; many live with an ingrained fear of it, even as adults. This is a place where people go to console the souls of the dead, especially those who died at an early age; some believe it to be the place where you can meet the souls of your departed ancestors and loved ones. Having seen the disaster areas in Iwate prefecture, I felt that I had cause to visit Mt. Osore.
As I walked through a rocky stretch where a strong sulfurous odor hangs above the shoreline, I started hearing screeching noises in the distance that sounded like metal scraping on metal, “Skreeyk… skreeyk… skreeyk…”
— Takahiro Kaneyama, New York City
“Bad faith” is a concept in existentialist philosophy coined by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir describing the habit people have of deceiving themselves into thinking that they do not have the freedom to make choices for fear of the potential consequences of making a choice. Commonly it is understood to mislead or deceive another.
It’s a term that I’ve borrowed to contain a body of photographic work that comes out of recent experiences produced by the volatile relationship I have with my family. In the past year, I’ve spent most of my time between the places I live (Los Angeles and New York City), and the places I’ve traveled to during this ordeal with them (Southern and Central Florida). I’ve created a kind of visual landscape narrative that expresses the tensions inherent in coming to terms with the sadness and longing at end of my parents’ lives when the history of those relationships are filled with abuse, untruths and mental illness.
Landscape photography is a contemplation of the photographer’s relationship to place and experience. The images in Bad Faith are exactly this, but instead of being open and expansive as traditional landscape photography can be, they are narrowly focused to underscore the diminishment that comes as a byproduct of emotional distress. Bad Faith is 30 years in the making, and while not all of that time was spent with this project and its objectives in mind, the emotional landscape that created it was.
— Lorena Turner, New York & Los Angeles
“Alas poor District Six! They are planning your downfall. They wish to make an end to the live throbbing area. They are making Darling Street a dagger pointed straight at your heart. What will I find if, in another life, I revisit the old district?” — The Torch (newspaper), 1940
What is in a landscape? Is it built up by memories as well as by rock and soil? Is it a record of society’s values and ideals etched into the land? Can the land mirror the ghosts and scars of history or can harsh trauma sever the bond between the land and its history?
The forced removals of and destruction of District Six has been called “South Africa’s Hiroshima” because of the effectiveness that such a recognizable entity with a distinct identity and sense of place could be so conclusively removed. Today, much of the land still lies barren.
Set aside to become the District Six Memorial Park, the land has been ignored, allowing the grass and wild fennel to grow wild and a community of otherwise homeless people to move into the area and make it their home.
Signs of Life examines this barren land and the traces left behind by the historic community while showing that the land, despite being forgotten, is actually full of life. This allows the work to question the role of memorials, to ask how present is our history and finally to ask what role land itself can play in understanding our both our past and present?
— Jon Riordan, Cape Town, South Africa