“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
East of London, the Broomway lies at the mouth of the Thames estuary, where the river meets the sea. It’s an ancient public right of way, at least 600 years old, perhaps an Anglo-Saxon drove route. It was formerly waymarked by a series of markers resembling brooms, hence its name. When the tide is out, it provides access on foot to Foulness Island.
The byway has long been notorious as the most perilous in England due to the disorienting nature of its environment in poor visibility, and near inevitability of death by drowning for anyone still out on the sands when the tide comes in. Many people have died on it over the years.
The Broomway leaves the mainland at Wakering Stairs, where there is a causeway over the band of soft mud known as the Black Grounds (or blackgrounds) which separates the mainland from the firmer ground of the Maplin Sands.
— Jack French, Wiltshire, England
Southern Tense is a continuation of Overgrown South. Overgrown South considers the tension between the South of the past, a contemporary South, and how it is often portrayed in a broader culture, “through recognizable and at times stereotypical images.”
Southern Tense considers the ambiguity of a place that is defined by something as nebulous as time. Locations are not mentioned but these are visible features of the Southern United States landscape — not necessarily untouched or natural but topographical inflection, realistic and detailed through geography, autobiography and metaphor.
— Shaun H. Kelly, Oxford, Mississippi, USA
These images are from my ongoing series called Seen by Odd Eyes.
I’ve been trying to see in new ways the locations near my home.
A lot of my recent work has been shot in places that many people would walk past without a second glance. My approach comes out of an increasing familiarity with a location.
Once you have exhausted the obviously “pretty” parts of the landscape, you start to look much closer and realize that beauty can be found in all sorts of places.
I am capturing moments in the landscape that only exist for a very short period and cannot be reproduced because of the light. Those edgeland places where I’ve been shooting the light makes them something more.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. — Plato
Seen by Odd Eyes has a touch of humans in nature, too. We are inside these landscapes and locations but always are somehow the smaller and weaker part of this bigger picture.
It is we who have forced the water to run like we want; it is we who cut the forests and make big holes in them. We need electricity and power of course, but we also need the calmness and serenity of nature at the same time. We need our seasons, too.
I want these images to show how small we are in long run and how much more we should really look at our surroundings to learn to enjoy beauty and value it more and protect it.
— Mirja Paljakka, Ylojarvi, Finland
For over three decades I’ve photographed the social landscape of the Rust Belt, America’s vast industrial heartland, which extends from upstate New York to the shores of Lake Michigan in the west and into Appalachia south of the Ohio River. The region has been in steady decline since the 1980s, when the industries began closing. The Great Recession was especially hard for Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, where I made these photographs. Entire blocks of downtowns were boarded up, factories were dismantled, and houses were abandoned to disintegration. People accustomed to a life of hard work lost their jobs, their homes, and their place in the world.
I think that my photographs are, in part, about the specific identity of a landscape — its topography, its architecture, its history, and the arrangement and decoration of back yards. At the same time, I try to make pictures whose details serve as clues to understanding the values, aspirations, hopes, and dreams of the people who live in that landscape. And setting aside geographical differences, the circumstances of the post-industrial Rust Belt reflect an increasingly ubiquitous inequality found throughout 21st-Century America, where most people aren’t as well off as they used to be, or as they would like to be.
My work in the Rust Belt isn’t finished. Even though the region’s inhabitants were instrumental in electing Donald Trump, their situation under his presidency is inevitably going to get worse. Despite campaign promises, jobs in the coal mines and steel mills are not coming back.
Andrew Borowiec, New York City and Akron, Ohio
I went traveling with my camera, with the idea to explore the concept of depaysement, a French word that represents the feeling one gets in a different place — the feeling of not being at home.
Depaysement is a peaceful feeling, a form of distancing yourself from your surroundings. There is melancholy to it too, the melancholy of suddenly having no past, of witnessing a world that has existed without you and will continue to do so.
I find it more present in the mundanities, where things that are so normal they should feel familiar suddenly have a layer of mystery to them.
Strangers walk by, feeling just as distant and unaccessible as their surroundings. The figure of the stranger becomes a statue, integrated into the landscape.
— Adrien Blondel, San Francisco
I’ve lived in Mannheim, Germany since 1979. I like to show my hometown and also some other cities in Europe in a different way. I have always been attracted to the architecture and the graphic aspect of the buildings, but also the landscape.
Mannheim and its environment have grown rapidly in recent years and are constantly changing. So I look with a camera or with a smartphone (as a sketchpad) at the different districts and try to document their change.
My photography is never purely documentary. With targeted processing I like to create pictures with a painterly touch. People are rarely in my pictures.
I love to slow down by taking photos and this usually happens best in the early hours of Sunday.
— Ariane Coerper, Mannheim, Germany
There is a picture of myself as a child that often comes to my mind: it’s me on my desk, reading the very first rudiments of geology that the teacher wanted us to memorize perfectly. Plate tectonics, continental drift, volcanoes…I was only 10 years old, but I already loved that subject: the idea of something emerging from the center of the earth to its surface, bringing destruction and fear, but also new forms and strange landscapes, was fascinating.
I remember the first time I went to Lanzarote: the transfer from the airport to the little village of Famara is a winding road through a land of grey lava and black ash. I could only see the outline of volcanoes, no trees, nothing else: something completely different from the Italian landscape I was used to. I fell in love with it.
Here I feel a strange energy that distorts my usual rhythm. I want to believe that the volcanoes destabilize me because they open a direct line that runs from the magma to the surface.
— Luana Rigolli, Gonzaga, Italy
Bánhida as a Hungarian village was first mentioned in charters in 1288. Bánhida had a rich history during the next centuries. In 1947 it had been united with three other mining villages: Alsógalla, Felsőgalla and Tatabánya — under the name of Tatabánya. And so it became a part of a town, losing its autonomy.
In this series, called Houses, Smalltown, I’m mainly dealing with the marks of human presence in Bánhida, a kind of topographical research for ever-changing scenes of the town.
These scenes may not seem to be aesthetically pleasing in a common sense. They are unavoidable parts of our man-altered environment and include a lot of things that most people don’t even like to look at: poles, ramshackle fences, traffic signs, concrete, dirt road, sometimes uncultivated plants etc., — which I find really interesting and exciting.
I try to find a new balance, context and interpretation of these environmental elements.
— Katalin Vágó-Lévai, Tatabánya, Hungary
The Romanian artist Catalin Cernat and I worked together over this past week to build a website for his photography at CatalinCernat.com.
I was happy to help Catalin because his work is graceful and thought-provoking. I believe that a good website is a huge step up from a Flickr or IG feed, or a Facebook page: it allows the artist to control the sequencing of his images and the text that enhances them.
English is not Catalin’s first language, so I helped him clean up the artist statements and his bio — using his own words. I also sequenced the photos for Catalin, which was much easier than sequencing my own work. (It helps to have distance.)
Catalin is the rare photographer who is able to photograph landscapes and portraits with equal fluency and skill. We presented 15 images in each category.
Please let us know what you think of the website. There is discussion on the 3,000-member NLP Facebook group about Catalin’s new site.
I am interested in doing more work of this type: sequencing, editing, tweaking of the operation of a website. I will charge a modest fee. Please email me at Willson@NewLandscapePhotography.com to find out more about how I might help you.
— Willson Cummer, Fayetteville, New York, USA