Isolation due to the quarantine led me to examine the landscape and the repercussions of human activity on it, using Google Earth.
An instrument almost unknown to me suddenly turned out to be inspiring. The time has passed for searching for beauty. It’s time to look at reality and avoid looking elsewhere. It’s time to look the landscape issue in the eye and avoid rejecting it by chasing to the myth of the lyrical landscape. The landscape is spoiled, distorted and deformed. It’s imperative to have full awareness for the damages which our way of living keeps on producing in the whole planet.
These homemade collages, compositions of photographs drawn from Google Earth, create patterns which can alter reality and confuse the vision. The esthetic dignity, however, hides that which humans still struggle to recognize as an epochal disaster.
Paradoxically, what interests me most in photography is not the immediacy of the shot but the duration: a temporality made up of suspended moments, waiting and absence in a world in balance, a world of “almost nothing” where the presence of man is only suggested. This contradiction serves as a motor for me: before the natural observation of things, awareness of fleeting time and the desire to grasp it amalgamate.
More formally, the search for this same balance between opposing forces is found in the objects and structures photographed: play between full and empty, dialogue between the animate and the inanimate, fusion of the masculine and the feminine.
This series, titled Interstices, shows us how natural and modern elements coexist and interact. The architecture of structures and the architecture of nature seem to be animated by one and the same energy. All of these photographs were taken in France and Spain in 2019.
The day before climbing Mount Fuji, I stayed in Fujiyoshida, a few miles from the mythical mountain. Of course, the Japanese town is far from prestigious, but its apparent beauty is precisely what attracts and interests me. Moreover, as I discover it, and as I delve into its nooks and crannies, its contrasts appear to me and captivate me.
It’s raining. The streets of Fujiyoshida are deserted as if the city had been abandoned. But housing, crossroads, dead ends, parking lots speak for the absent population.
A scene painted on a garage door evokes the history of Japan and the patriotic sentiment of its owner. Household and computer equipment thrown away speaks of technology and Japanese capitalism. It suggests a hasty departure, an impression which is underlined by the wild vegetation seen in a parking lot or a cramped no-man’s land, old posters plastered on a dilapidated wall.
But ruin, decline, exile even, are merely an appearance, an illusion quickly swept away. In fact, the tidy habitat and open shutters evoke life like the gleaming cars, flowerbeds, advertising signs or that of a bar…
My journey through Fujiyoshida is formally punctuated by right angle shots and blind spots, which precede the discovery of new spaces.
My family’s past is connected with the places flooded to create the Rybinsk Reservoir on the Volga River, in Russia. This reservoir was once the largest man-made body of water on Earth.
Joseph Stalin forced more than 130,000 people to leave their homes and businesses between 1937 and 1941 to make way for the reservoir. Stone houses were destroyed, while wooden ones were dismantled and transported for use elsewhere.
Those who became homeless were given money, but had to find new homes on their own. Most people moved somewhere nearby, but some died, unable to survive the shock, the cold, illness and poverty. About 700 villages were flooded, along with over 50 churches, three monasteries, wealthy estates with surrounding territories, gardens and parks. The whole city of Mologa was flooded.
I was drawn to these places, to find people who would tell about the flooding. Articles from books were not enough. I needed live witnesses, those who kept the stories of their relatives. I needed photos, documents, letters and evidence. It is impossible to remain indifferent now, as it is impossible to change what happened. For a long time, there was a ban on talking about Mologa and people were afraid to share information. Even when it became possible, most people remained silent.
The portraits in my project are of people whose families were displaced by the flooding. They now live within 15 miles of the reservoir. I made the landscape photographs from a boat on the Rybinsk Reservoir or near its shore.
“Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other people’s pictures too – photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny, but that carry with them a reminder of community.”
— Robert Adams
I started the New Landscape Photography blog 10 years ago today, and have published the work of almost 700 artists.
As people’s interests have moved from blogs and websites to social media, the submissions here have fallen off. I used to get three or four a week. Now I might get that many in three months. I’ve thought about stopping operations and just preserving the site as an archive. But my favorite part remains, though less frequent: the interactions with the artists who want to share their work with my readers.
Most work that I review is excellent. I select five images from the 10 submitted and sequence them. I take a more active role with the statements. I want them to be clear, inviting, personal and thoughtful. They usually are already. I’m impressed with the English-language skills of artists around the world, but sometimes a few tweaks are needed for clarity or accuracy.
Six years ago I created a Facebook chat group — also called New Landscape Photography. It has grown to about 3,500 members, with collegial sharing of images, questions and ideas. Though the location of activity has changed, it goes on. I know that I depend on other people’s pictures. And so I’ll also keep this blog going. Please let me know if you’d like to share work here.
The picture below is from my current project — investigating the 1,000-mile Finger Lakes Trail, a footpath that winds through much of New York State and its public forests. I’ve been exploring primarily on the run.
For many years I have spent my summer holidays on the Riviera dei Fiori. It is a place I know very well, and to which I have already dedicated photographic series in the past.
Every time I come back here I enjoy taking long walks with the camera along the coast — from Ventimiglia, on the border with France, towards Sanremo to San Lorenzo a Mare. The images that make up this series are from the last two summers I spent in these places.
I have tried to capture very marginal and ordinary aspects of the landscape, which have a strong fascination for me.
In October, 2018 I spent two weeks in Ibiza, Spain, visiting a friend. My intention was to capture “the party island” in off season. It was interesting to see a place which is mainly focused on tourism be empty and chilled.
I went all over the island and I saw closed restaurants, empty beaches, and shops covered in plastic for protection from the winter. It all felt like a backstage in a theatre. The inhabitants of the island were really enjoying this time, when they can rest and prepare themselves for the next season.
For the presentation of the pictures I chose the postcard form. I created postcards that probably nobody would send.
Some 30 years ago I had read about Saharan salt and the caravans transporting it from Algeria and Mali into Morocco. Salt was literally worth its weight in gold. I can’t be sure whether I had read or imagined desert towns made entirely from blocks of salt. The notion of such a wild inhospitable place appealed as a place to write about. Many years later, I found myself much closer to the Saharan source of salt, living in Morocco.
The small pockets of Morocco’s salt production located near its western coastline had been on my radar for years but photographically it seemed too unstructured and harsh to make any images there. Set across a few acres, these ad-hoc basins provide a source of income for local families. I saw the potential for revealing a chaotic harsh environment seemingly devoid of conventional photographic beauty in graphical terms. Its austerity in form became ever more appealing to me.
I need silence
like you who read with thought
the sound of my own voice
would now be noise
not words but just annoying sound
that distracts me from thinking.
— Alda Merini
Seeking silence inwardly some time ago I felt like a tumultuous sky full of clouds threatening big thunderstorms. I felt the strong desire to hear what “noise” silence has. I could no longer remember. Such a whirling daily life was slowly leading me to be a stranger to myself and to the people around me. Every thought or gesture of mine was sterile, no longer transmitting emotions.
We are always immersed in noise and surrounded by people’s voices; noises distracting, moving away. I was seeking silence, to find myself, recognize myself in my lost identity.
One afternoon in March 2017 I sought silence on a beach in the Italian province of Ferrara, on the Adriatic Sea. I was looking for a beach unknown to me, unspoiled, without footprints. I was looking to get emotions as I used to in the past, to discover beauty in front of a simple landscape, in silence.
Remaining still and hearing just the sound of the sea, looking up into the sky at clouds full of rain well reflecting my mood, I felt very fragile; I was looking for my inner self. In that silence, I set out to photograph while recalling a few verses of a poem I deeply love entitled “I Need Silence” by the Italian poet Alda Merini. I wanted to transpose into every single photograph my state of mind, my feeling of disquiet, my bewilderment.
Impending Growth refers to the landscape that has been formed in anticipation of growth during the economic crisis in Greece up till now. It is a crisis that is being treated as something that has passed — like a wound that has healed — but the results of this return to normality are yet to be seen. And no one knows if and when this will happen at all.
As in the myth of Sisyphus every time he approaches the top something happens and the rock falls at the beginning of the mountain — inaugurating a new Calvary. People look like they have adapted to this infinite struggle — like living in a loop. One test succeeds another, and every now and then a new sacrifice is required to enable the coveted goal to be attained. People are on pause. Plots and houses that have been transformed into urban landscapes of abandonment.