Vaughn Wascovich

The Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma, USA is the largest and most heavily polluted toxic site in the country, and was designated a toxic Superfund Site by the federal government in 1983. This 40-square-mile area of northeastern Oklahoma includes five cities with a combined population of over 30,000.

At least half of the polluted land is on one of a dozen Indian reservations. The air, ground and water is severely contaminated with heavy metals including lead, zinc, iron, cadmium, and arsenic, due to more than 80 years of mining activity. In addition, the area is plagued with open ventilation shafts and constant mine cave-ins. Approximately 75 million tons of chat (mine tailings which contain dangerous levels of toxic metals) remains on the surface of the ground.

I am attempting to document not only the current environmental problems found here but also to understand and demonstrate through my photographs the population’s close relationship to this land — and that in spite of the obvious hazards, they are reluctant to leave.

— Vaughn Wascovich, Commerce, Texas, USA

Dara McGrath

The deserted spaces of the East European national borderlands are spaces in flux. Devoid now of border controls, they are in the process of being decommissioned and abandoned. This shifting of political and economic position, after centuries of conflict, to one of a willingness to engage in dialogue, mutual interest and the need for engagement coincided with the internal migratory shifts of people out of social and economic necessity.

No longer points on a map, but neither fully blank spaces, they are spaces-in-between, and are difficult arenas to absorb and comprehend. These places, which were once forbidden spaces on the map, contested, ambiguous and politically charged, now reveal themselves as lonely halfway places, impotent of their political and social significance.

This photographic series tries to seek out the physical evidence of the transitory nature of the present-day European border checkpoints and crossings and what it says about the relationship between society, identity, architecture and the landscape in a united Europe.

— Dara McGrath, Cork, Ireland

Brian Kaplan

Cape Cod is a summer vacation spot.  In July and August its beaches and towns teem with tourists.  The population of the outer Cape explodes tenfold.  Visitors stand in line for an hour or more for an order of fried clams.  Locals complain that there’s no place to park at the beach after work — or about how long it takes to drive to the post office.
Once Labor Day rolls around, there’s a mass exodus.  Motels empty.  Cottages are boarded up.  Restaurants and clam shacks shut down. The coastline is pummeled by powerful nor’easters. 
This project, titled I’m Not On Your Vacation, is about life on the outer Cape.  The people who live and work there.  Those who come for the summer, often from Jamaica and eastern Europe, not for the beaches but to work — scrubbing floors, sweeping parking lots and making sandwiches, earning more money in one week than they can in a month back home.  This project is also about what goes on in the “off season,” after the tourists have gone home.

— Brian Kaplan, Brookline, Massachusetts, USA

Tom Janssen

In 2007 I attended for half a year the Dublin University of Technology in Dublin, Ireland. Back then, the economic growth was not as huge as it had been in the second half of the nineties, but from 2001 to 2007 the Irish economy was still booming.

I will never forget paying 500 Euros rent for a shared room, whereas in Holland I paid 300 Euros for a private one. This was largely due to the growth in housing investments — which more than doubled between 1996 and 2006. Taken into perspective with today’s knowledge, this was one of the reasons why Ireland was hit so hard during the 2008 economic crisis.

With investments this big, you can imagine how many construction sites were popping up in Dublin. This change of landscape reflected “The Irish Boom” more than anything for me. The main focus of the series is the areas where the largest part of the expansion took place: the fringe of the city, where vast amounts of empty land were made ready for construction. This is also where the series derived its title: Dublin Border.

— Tom Janssen, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Gabri Solera

The French term “terrain vague” is used by architectural critics for certain conditions that, in many different forms, are present in the contemporary city. On the one hand, ”vague” means vacant, empty, free of activity, unproductive and even obsolete. On the other hand, “vague” means vague as to imprecision, uncertainty and the impossibility of identifying boundaries.

“Terrain vague” refers to places where it seems the apparently-forgotten memory of the past dominates the present. These places are external sites, strangers, falling outside the circuits of productive structures. The emptied inner islands of activity and rest are outside the urban dynamics, simply becoming depopulated areas, unsafe and unproductive.

– Gabri Solera, Madrid, Spain

Claire Harlan

My work is about landscapes, whether they occur in the urban setting or in the desert-scapes of my childhood. I am interested in the architecture of space, created in its textures and psychology in varying degrees of scale. I explore the alienation I sometimes find in the nighttime — the solitude and the respite, the inviting darkness and the sometimes-inhibiting nature of the city.

Great writers can coerce readers into expressing and filling out their own individual contexts by providing an ephemeral and otherworldly canvas in which to find and expand their view of the landscape. I try to emulate them.

— Claire Harlan, Los Angeles, USA

Robert Ellis

This body of work, titled New Line, documents the space inhabited by a small alternative community in the West of Ireland. By exploring the private world created by the people that live here, this work adopts a silent and contemplative tone and seeks to engage with this space and its inhabitants, rather than expose it. Through carefully-negotiated access and many discussions, this work becomes a catalyst of my experience and the time spent making the work. Carried out over the period of a year, the images reveal the harsh depths of winter and the warm fertility of summer. The images tell the stories of the people that belong here, but only ever show a glimpse of their presence.

— Robert Ellis, Ballyvaughan, Ireland

Miguel Santos

One For the Mind, Two For the Eye and Seven (plus or minus two) for the World started on the road while working on a previous project and makes a direct reference to George Miller’s paper from 1956, in which the limits of working memory are addressed and the number seven is proposed as a reference number for the amount of elements that an individual can pay attention to.

The aim of this project was to combine contradictory landscapes in a diptych while proposing a speculative formulation of the ontological nature of contradictions, the importance of attention in perception and the observer’s movement required to articulate contradictions.

Each diptych in the series proposes two contradictory images that contaminate each other (juxtaposed and fading) to create a place in-between that emphasizes their similarities while retaining their differences. The union of the frames reaffirms the autonomy of each image and their implicit relation, which can only be answered by an observer. We, in our embodiment, access the world instead of representing it, and accessing the world requires movement to allow the articulation of ontological contradictions, in a world that is also in movement.

— Miguel Santos, London, UK & Lisbon, Portugal

Carlos Bravo

Periphery is a project whose purpose is the study and analysis of the outskirts of the contemporary metropolis. Every city in the world has characteristics that make up its own personality. It is in these settings where each and every one of them are similar and show part of their bowels and their functioning. This is an area of vital importance for developing and publishing these cities.

This work is portraying these environments and the evident traces and remnants of human beings — but the human figure is absent. Knowing these environments we also understand what we do and how we do it. It is a good way to understand our own identity.

— Carlos Bravo, Castellón, Spain

Leon West

My photographs illuminate an intimate experience with the subject.  Each photograph I take is depicted in clear, intricate detail, with forms, lines and patterns precisely arranged within the composition.  A consistent regard for clarity, tonal quality and the infinite nuance of detail pervades my work. This gives me the freedom to achieve the images I desire.  I create photographs where the light appears invisible — so as to neutralize its role in the appearance of things.  I choose to work in the intriguing beauty of shaded light as sunshine creates shadows, highlights, and accents on the surface that commandeer the eye.  Revering detail, tonality and clarity I decided to use a cumbersome 8″x10″ Deardorff field camera, a precision instrument that is based on early 19th-century designs.  The large camera with its formality is a device that grants my subject matter dignity.

— Leon West, Cardiff, Wales, UK