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
When I first traveled to Dubai I witnessed a city growing uncontrollably out of the desert. Construction sites lined with busses packed full of workers dotted the landscape in every direction. New buildings appeared by the hour. Roads detoured endlessly to make way for man-made lakes and islands. Hundreds of transmission towers suppling power to the metropolis’ increasing energy consumption appeared in the barren areas surrounding the city. I returned a few years later to a much different place. The economic collapse left an unfinished city stuck in the desert. I went throughout the city with a 4×5 camera to photograph the urban landscape that currently occupies a massive expanse of land. Development in many areas has slowed down considerably or even stopped completely, awaiting the funds necessary to complete projects. Buildings remain empty without any occupants in the city core. Pre-built neighborhoods devoid of residents resemble ghost towns. Outlying areas already master planned give the appearance of mirages in the distance. This apparent stagnation clashes with the expectations of the past and the realizations of the future. It’s a transitional period in a city without boundaries. I titled the project Unfinished City.
— Ryan Debolski, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Paradise Now explores how urban fantasies and construction function as expressions of nationalistic ambition, blurring the line between the natural and artificial within the hypermodern city.
Paradise Now is driven by my ongoing curiosity into the human condition, and a desire to visually interpret socio-cultural phenomena within both natural and man-made landscapes. I am drawn, photographically, to the world’s rapidly-expanding and hyper-globalized cities, particularly those that have invested heavily in large-scale urban planning and modernist/futurist architecture. I find that the topographically surreal environments that are products of that planning and architecture set the stage for interesting photo opportunities, from close up and afar.
— Ryan Koopmans, New York City, USA