The Pennsylvania Railroad was one of the most storied institutions in American history, operating the largest railroad in the US for over a century. The PRR, as it was known, developed infrastructure, engineering standards and traffic systems that still carry trains today on a system that evolved continually through its long history.
Following its 1968 collapse, the physical face of the PRR network has changed considerably. This once unified system has been carved by various successors into separate if interdependent, corridors for freight and passenger operations across the Mid Atlantic. Though gone nearly half a century, its remains provide visual clues of how the “Standard Railroad of the World” operated, and its contributions to the American way of life.
Inspired by the work of William H. Rau, commissioned in the 1890’s to document and promote the Pennsylvania Railroad and its destinations, the From the Main Line project is a contemporary exploration of the landscape the PRR shaped. It examines both the inhabited landscape developed along the railroad while celebrating the engineering marvel of the Road itself, first undertaken over 150 years ago.
Photographs provide two distinct views by contextualizing the railroad within the landscape while also simulating the experience of the passenger, as if from a railcar window. The story of how the PRR shaped the development of the United States is told by illustrating its transitioning landscape, uncovering its hidden layers of growth, by following the decline and rebirth of small towns, industrial areas and city terminals whose fortunes once depended solely on those of this singular, once-mighty transportation system.
The beauty of the plains is not just in themselves but in the sky, in what you think when you look at them, and in what they are not.
— Ian Frazier, Great Plains
These pictures represent trips made between 2006 and 2016 to Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming. I went because I wanted to see the westward migration routes: the Oregon and Mormon Trails and the three great rivers—the Missouri, Platte and Yellowstone. The big rivers made me want to look at some smaller ones, so I stopped at, among others, the Heart, the Bad, the Musselshell, the Tongue, the Dismal and the Little Bighorn.
It wasn’t all history and lyrical names, which is good, because ideas or words rarely photograph well. I spent time and attention on interstate highways, which most travelers think of as roads but which seem to me more like places. And of course there were towns and cities and suburbs to photograph. Looking at almost any landscape is a good way to look at the people who live there.
Light on the Great Plains is something special. When we look for beauty or meaning, the easiest mistake we can make is to drive right past it. I’m a believer in the uncommon promise of the commonplace.
The series Landmarks, produced between 2012 and 2018, shows the entanglement of nature, land, labour, industry and technology in Tasmania (Australia), as it is characterised by big hydro-electric power stations, dams, water reservoirs, penstocks, power pylons and lines, mining operations (tin, iron), etc. In this work I also focus on the remnants and ruins of the original infrastructure put in place to facilitate the work on dams and mines, including now abandoned or dismantled construction camps and villages, where, however, we can now witness the emergence of natural growth. I am especially interested in the way industry and infrastructure, roads and waterways, were built into the land and shaped it to create the unique historical and inhabited human landscape of Tasmania. As such, my work explores photographic possibilities outside the stale opposition between wilderness photography (Ansel Adams or Peter Dombrovskis) and New Topographic photography (the Bechers or Wenders).
Photographs in this series look at the economic and environment motivations which have shaped the land. The title, Coping with the Landscape, refers to my fear of the state of the contemporary landscape – fear generated by the loss of humanity in the land that supports the movement of capital first, and the needs of the locality second. This series of photographs follows the intermediate zone, which crosses the borders between infrastructure space and domestic space, searching for a path through the land which is not prescribed. Illuminated by billboards and street lights, the storage containers and infrastructure create the boundaries of the land. Within that boundary, the instability of this human-made landscape emerges.
“I don’t want to see the typical touristic things.”
This is probably the most popular sentence of every tourist. But what do they want to see instead? The normal and boring things or people? Trash, dirt or poverty? Maybe this is exactly the non-touristic stuff. So, as a tourist, you do not want to see the reality. Discovering new things, beautiful landscapes or food – that’s what traveling is all about. But for the local people things are just normal: they see exactly the same things as the tourists. Only through different eyes.
Whenever I am on vacation, I try to see things with the eyes of the locals. The camera helps me a lot because you have to observe and be patient. A kind of normality is documented in my project Ordinary Japan. It is a subjective view of Japan and its landscape.
What were originally designed by Andre Le Notre in the 17th century as entertainment gardens for the kings’ court have become, in many instances, the terrain vague, or disregarded landscape. The countryside where the gardens were built has become the city and the suburbs of Paris, France, turning the bucolic into urban landscapes. With a short ride from the city, one can enter a world of solitude, beauty and peace. In my photography I have concentrated my focus on the periphery of the gardens, where time and space are given to contemplation and reflection.
These images are from my forthcoming photobook Going Out, which will be available on my website this fall.
Fundamental to human life, for millennia we have sought out salt. A search for the familiar daily grain in the vast expanses of the salt mountain, pan, lake and vein. Equipped with a geologist’s toolkit I went out into the field, following well-worn paths, maps, and Google Earth images. Born of the Purest Parents oscillates between the fragmented mineral specimen and the topographic survey. Through closely observed landscape features, scale and alienation are explored within both natural and man-made places.
I work in poetry and photography, the two being close in principles, but ultimately living on two separate tracks. My influences, in both cases, come from post-war modernism: Russian metarealism and the Language poetry on the textual side, and Düsseldorf School and New Topographics on the visual side.
What I’m trying to do is a meticulous study of structure that results in an ultimately lyrical outcome. The methodology of it is very impersonal and restrained, never directly human, so the composition is focused primarily on form, and the sentimentality comes from honoring it as such. In equal measure, it is a way of pointing and a way of worship.
So I picture small things, small movements, small differences in shades, suggesting that it’s the particular something, like the curve of a path, or the brownness of dirt, or the shape of an oak, that affirms the sensibility of life to begin with.
Kalochori (meaning “good village” or “nice land” in Greek) is a series I created just outside Thessaloniki, the second-biggest Greek city, in the north of the country, where three rivers meet (the Axios, Loudias and Gallikos). After having traveled through the Balkans they pour into the Aegean Sea. Their deltas form a lagoon that should be protected because it hosts rare animal and plant species, but it neighbors the industrial zone of the city and suffers from air and water pollution.
To my eyes and mind the result is a postmodern landscape combining beauty and death, rare colors and figures formed inside an oily inertia.
The idea for the series Lunar Landscapes came about on an impromptu photo shoot at Dreamy Draw Park for the Super Moon full moon on 12/02/17. The series came together in my mind while waiting on the moon to crest the mountain – each month for each full moon, a different park, in Arizona. The goal was to photograph the landscape, to catch the full moon cresting the horizon, so I could do what I love to do: be outside at night shooting long exposures. But not just anywhere. Here, in Arizona, in the desert with the rocks and cacti.
In 2015 I shot HOT SUMMER NIGHTS, all long exposures at night of urban landscapes – all in Phoenix. In 2016 was Night Water, again, all long exposures at night, of the canal system here in the city – then in 2017 I only worked on Nightlight – a self-portrait project, shot indoors, again long exposures done at night, but indoors. I missed shooting at night outdoors enormously. I was so ready to get back outside again. I can’t quite put my finger on it, to say it’s beautiful here is an understatement, it’s quite striking. When I’m outside at night I’m not experiencing some kind of metaphysical out of body mind meld magic – maybe I am! ;) What I know for certain is that the combination of the light and the color and the heat feels magical. I so wanted to get back to doing what I had done before – long exposures at night, but this time in the desert. Away from the urban core and the artificial lights. And be among the cacti and the creosote bushes and the sage and the rocks – under the moonlight.
Each month I scout out a new location, typically a park, although one month I shot at a private residence. The time frame of the shoot is very narrow – it’s one night, once a month, within in a matter of minutes as the moon is rising. And then it’s over – until the next month. 12 months, 12 outings. Narrowly defined parameters is something I consciously imbue into each of my projects. Setting my own “rules” for each series builds pressure which helps me clearly and purposefully create. Precisely defined boundaries – where ambiguity is absent, is inherent I feel, not only in how I prefer to live, but in my photography itself. Even in the murky darkness of my work, there is little that is not clearly what it makes itself to be.