I am a photographer and book artist living in Maine. I have just completed my latest book Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness. In it, I attempt to create a history of Tokyo through its landscape. The title refers to the elements of nature in Buddhism. Each element refers not only to physical properties of the world, but also the psychological nature of an animate being, creating a dichotomy of the object and observer.
I am fascinated by our perception of an image, the aesthetic response, and the change in perception with knowledge of what is represented. Landscapes are a complex layering of material and form that reflect the chronology that created them. Our immediate response is very intuitive—we engage with the shapes, colors, and textures. Our experience of particular elements, trees, rivers, buildings, etc., create associated impressions, which can be unique to an individual. The landscape can go through another transformation with information that is not apparent, for example, all the islands and coastline in Tokyo are artificial, representing about 100 sq. mi. of reclaimed land—the landscape in Tokyo bay even 60 years ago would have just been open water. My book is available on my website.
— William Ash, Litchfield, Maine, USA
In Catharsis: Images of Post-Conflict Belfast, I explore to what degree the language of the snapshot contributes to or obscures our understanding of time and place. Juxtaposing snapshot photography from my Belfast family album with newer documentary images of urban Belfast in the post-conflict present, I situate each image in relation to an unspoken memory, and a troubled history, while marking each piece with its GPS coordinates, as a reference to its military historical legacy. Each site photographed is a former ‘Troubles’ site, now a Tourist site. Walking along the Peace walls on its Protestant side, I recall personal family album images taken on the Catholic side. The GPS is a reminder of Belfast’s history with its absent military ‘presence.’ The stark contrast in scale and genre, between the personal album images and the more public documents helps shape an understanding of the gap between them.
— Angela Kelly, Rochester, New York, USA
My image-making is often a dance with self-doubt, both poetic and practical. It is this balance between states that I use to create a sense of unease and ambiguity. I use the medium of photography to translate visual stories that lie somewhere between myth, reality and the everyday. I seek an intimacy with the viewer, to feel an attraction with place, and to recognise the power of the unconscious self. The work often asks questions about how we relate to the world, whilst gifting a private vision. Using journeys to find a new experience with nature and everyday scenes. I use the landscape as a metaphor.
— Joanne Coates, London
Failed Interference tries to find an approach to the disclosure of threads of aggressiveness and irresistible forces of nature and the surrounding landscape. In human behavior lies the desire to adapt the environment, modify it according to their needs, desire for comfort and predictability, but every human endeavor, any interference with the natural course of things, is doomed to failure. The project was shot in the suburbs of Gothenburg, Sweden, one of the most prosperous European countries, where we believe in the possibility of peaceful coexistence.
— Oleg Savunov, St. Petersburg, Russia
“Why did you come to Slovakia?” is a question I have been asked many times over the last 10 years. It is a question that falls into two distinct categories. Firstly as a general inquiry in to what I am doing here for work. Secondly it can be read as a statement of disbelief. What are you doing in Slovakia when you could be in London or anywhere in the West? Rather than attempt to illustrate this sense of disbelief I chose to look for signs, people and situations in an attempt to answer the question.
The simple pleasures that can be found in unfamiliar surroundings. The escape from what is perceived for the fulfilling discovery of something new. It led me to paraphrase the words of William Least Heat Moon from his inspirational book Blue Highways: “No place in theory, is boring itself. Boredom lies only with ones limited perception and ones failure to explore deeply enough.”
Andrew Hillard, Bratislava, Slovakia
Show Caves is a collection of large-format photographs that explores the anthropocentric tendencies of modern tourism seen in domestic and international show caves. Show caves are natural caves managed by government or commercial organizations that have been modified to accommodate tourism. The objective of this body of work is to highlight the tension that exists between the staggering natural beauty of caves and the renovations people make in order to transform these spaces into spectacular tourist attractions.
These caverns have been curated to cater to both the physical needs of sightseers as well as to our collective expectation of the fantasy of a cave. Elaborate lighting, elevators, poured cement trails, even bathrooms and souvenir stands have been added so that ancient geological wonders can be accessible and marketable to a money-giving public. Are these additions acts of vandalism disrupting a delicate ecosystem for the sake of commercial profit? Or do these human interventions draw attention to the preservation of caves and make hard-to-access natural wonders readily available for appreciation?
— Austin Irving, Los Angeles
My primary interest is in documenting humanity’s impact on the world — both the intersection of nature and industry, and the narratives of the people living at those crossroads. Generally, the images are constructed “in camera,” including only the elements present at the moment of capture.
Much of my focus is on the remnants and future of human activity across the deserts of the American West. Images of these parched lands are part of America’s cultural DNA — icons of great hope and ambition. Against these grand ideals exists a patchwork of struggling communities, dreamers, dropouts, and military-industrial compounds scattered across vast open spaces. These photographs explore how the “window” functions as not only a literal/architectural, but also as an optical/aesthetic and narrative/symbolic structure in framing the story of our desert landscapes.
— Osceola Refetoff, Los Angeles
Whilst there is a photography tradition of documenting the American road trip, I felt that traveling by bike would expose me to opportunities and encounters that could be overlooked if travelled by car or bus. Taking a slower pace and being on my own speed allowed me, as an observer passing through small American towns, to see the beauty in the banality of everyday life. I feel the decision to cycle not only gave me a stronger connection to the landscape but also to the people I met along the way.
— Garry Loughlin, Antwerp, Belgium
The Smile of God follows the Connecticut River Valley from the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Long Island Sound. I made several trips to the river in 2014 to photograph a region that was, for several centuries, one of the engines of American prosperity. The valley produced firearms and machine tools, automobiles, board games and life insurance. Apart from a few remaining pockets of great affluence, the region has been in economic decline for decades.
The title, The Smile of God, appears in at least two popular histories of development on the river from the early 20th century. The authors assert it’s a translation of the name the native populations gave the river before the arrival of white settlers, but I haven’t found any credible citations for this. The river and the geography of the valley are beautiful and ancient, and so are many of its towns and cities, but the works of the European settlers were built on blood and bones.
— Mark Barnette, Portland, Maine, USA
Arched-roof, man-made caves dot the landscape of the Flint Hills region of Kansas, the area I have called home for most my life. These native stone constructions are often all that remain of early homesteads and may represent the last traces of the people who built and relied on them. The shelters exude a spirit or soul, possibly due to their resemblance to ancient crypts or religious holy places. The chisel marks on the native stone, which was harvested from local quarries or gathered from surrounding pastures, are like the lines on your hand, unique to each individual structure. I have come to admire these structures for their hidden beauty and importance to the lives of early homesteaders.
I have spent a great deal of time researching and looking for these often elusive structures, wandering the landscape in hopes of stumbling upon them, and talking to locals for leads. I have now found nearly 300 arched subterranean shelters, documenting each and attempting to discover as much historical information about them as I can. Through my photographs I hope to preserve and present these structures in a new and visually stimulating way, using technologically advanced photographic techniques to create 360-degree impressions of their interiors. I photograph each structure in a standardized way, exposing its subtle, unique characteristics, documenting what has been left behind, and showing the fingerprint-like quality left by the people who built it. Through my treatment, these hidden cavities become more like split-open geodes, revealing the beauty hidden inside.
These arched-roof structures were not large scale projects. Rather, they were built by individuals or families to sustain lives and provide security in times of crisis. Sometimes all that is left of the people who relied on these structures is a crypt-like cavity in the ground. I hope viewers will take the opportunity to reflect on their own role in the world, what they themselves have created or helped to create, and what legacies they will leave behind. Life is fragile and tenuous. We have lessons to learn by examining these humble structures.
— Tom Parish, Emporia, Kansas, USA
Vernacular Landscape is a cultural landscape that evolves through people when their activities or occupancy shapes the land. Thus, the landscape reflects the physical, biological, and cultural character of the social and cultural attitudes of individuals, families, and communities. At the most basic level, our psychology and attitudes shape our perception of the world and drive our broader interactions with landscape. This series of work is an exploration of my own psychology and its intimate dialogue in defining and shaping place relative to people.
In 2014, my sister Jennifer was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had a tumor the size of a baseball sitting on her brain stem. In an effort to make light of the situation Jennifer decided to name her tumor Fred. Ultimately, treatment for Jen involved a permanent move to Massachusetts with her family. I picked up my camera in an effort to process all that was transpiring. This series documents my attempt to understand both a foreign place and a new reality for Jennifer.
I am happy to report that Jen beat the odds, she is loving life and living it up with her two sons Ethan and Spencer, and most importantly, Fred is dead!
— Ryan Nemeth, Portland, Oregon
This long-term project is focused on urban and suburban observation, an alternation of constant change and stillness which form an unclear landscape, suspended between recognition and surprise.
The aim is to discover the fascination of the exotic in an ordinary landscape to which we have stopped paying attention.
— Marco Fava, Piacenza, Italy
All over the countryside in North West Leicestershire there are rocks, concrete blocks, tree stumps and piles of earth in lay-bys, property entrances and field gateways. What is going on, or, more precisely, what is being stopped from going on?
I first photographed the reason for the blocks at the same time as the first of the blocks themselves, early one bright Sunday morning at a roundabout near my village, where a small group of travellers had set up camp alongside the road. Part of a lay-by off the roundabout had been cut off with huge rocks from one of the local quarries.
As is the way with these sorts of things, once you notice one example, you see a lot more. So I went out to investigate and found many more around the county. Every field, empty factory, lay-by and dead end bit of roadway was blocked in the same way. I also started to notice a lot of traveller home sites; little bits of land that had been colonised and turned into homesteads. Then I found one homestead that had been completely burnt out. It didn’t look like it was an accident. I realised that this was more than just dealing with a minor inconvenience; that there was a fairly serious issue of a clash of lifestyle and thinking going on; one that may never be resolved. Although I am not religious, it reminded me of a quote from the Christian Bible that I had heard a long time ago: “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”
— Robert Ashby, Swannington, Leicestershire, England
Minsk is the capital of Belarus, population two million. The biggest part of it was built after World War II and was quite carefully planned.
We have here only one small river but there was an idea to create a big recreation zone for city inhabitants. The “green diameter” – a system of artificial lakes and parks, had to cross the city from west to east and form a rest zone. There also were some “worker’s” districts, where people from big factories mainly lived, located on the periphery of Minsk and far from the river. To spread the green zone into these districts a channel, an artificial “river” with a system of ponds and waterfalls from concrete, was created in the middle of the 1970s.
The green diameter had to form a center of communication for the people of Minsk. On the one hand it is like this at the moment. From another, these parks — an architectural and natural monument — became more a place of solitude and runaway, a palace where everybody tries to hide, to stay a little bit alone in nature.
— Alexandra Soldatova, Minsk, Belarus
I use the camera as a means to understand the world around us and to explore spatial environments and encounters. My work usually emerges from a conceptual rule-based frame work and rarely includes people. However, a few years after my grandmother passed away, I spent two weeks at her house in New Hampshire where I had spent my childhood summers just the two of us. During my time there, I thought often about how people shape and define space and how we associate places with people. Looking through projects such as Bruce Davidson’s East 100th Street, Alec Soth’s Niagara, or Chan Chao’s Burma: Something Went Wrong, one can’t help but allow the portraits to influence our impressions of these places. But what happens when the people who give meaning to a place are gone? How do you capture someone whose presence is felt despite being physically absent? Drawing from various metaphors for trees representing family and using the tropes of contemporary portrait photography, I set out to photograph the various trees on her property.
— Alexandra Silverthorne, Washington, DC, USA