I find a terrible beauty in the machinery of energy development. Over the last century the once vast, empty spaces of the America West have become laden with pipelines, pumps, tanks, towers, and (now), wind turbines and solar arrays. I say “terrible” because of the inherent conflict I find attached to the subject. For me, the machines, as objects, are beautiful feats of engineering and form. On the other hand, the continued encroachment and impact on the land driven by our society’s relentless consumption is harrowing.
What is undeniable is that these devices will undergo a gradual and inevitable deterioration. Over time the original forms, surfaces, textures, and colors of these engineering marvels are altered and degraded by the physical world. Mechanical systems break down, parts break and are discarded, pipelines rupture and are eventually abandoned in place. Decay is the order of the natural world. Ultimately, these energy converters will all arrive at the same state – energy junk, or Monuments to Entropy. But the scars on the land will remain.
So one is left asking: What have we traded away by basing economies on unyielding consumption? What more will we lose by covering deserts with solar panels and mountains, plains, and shorelines with wind turbines? What will the planet look like once it is entirely covered with energy devices? Will this change our collective aesthetic and the way we view Nature? What is the fate of the horizon?
— Kevin O’Connell, Denver, Colorado, USA
I create work that deals with the complexities, legacies, and myths surrounding history. My focus is documenting landscapes that have been altered by past events. Many of these historic sites have been desecrated by modern development, a byproduct of our neglect for our collective history.
These images, from the series An Independent Line, serve as a critique of Northern Virginia’s unchecked suburban sprawl, which has erased much of the area’s history. The subject of these photographs is the Manassas Gap Railroad line, which would have run from Gainesville to Alexandria but was left incomplete due to an economic downturn in the 1850s, similar to what we are experiencing today. Large sections of the 34-mile-long line survive; however, tract housing, shopping centers, and modern roads have decimated the majority of them.
— Devon Johnson, Fairfax, Virginia, USA
The 100 Abandoned Houses project documents one aspect of the remains of a city that has seen its population decline by more than half. At one point Detroit was home to almost 2 million residents, but its population has since fallen to just over 700,000.
Brush Park, once a wealthy enclave on the outskirts of Detroit’s entertainment district, was the area that first caught my attention, and where I first photographed abandoned mansions. For years faded signs had advertised the redevelopment that was about to take place. Around 2000, it finally began to happen, with new condos beginning to appear amidst the rubble of burned-out mansions turned apartments.
As Brush Park began to transform into something new, I realized the other approximately 135 square miles of Detroit was largely ignored. Excitement about Detroit’s “rebirth” took center stage, while much of the rest of the city was becoming largely abandoned. Even Brush Park itself was still largely abandoned, but with the remaining tenants of Brush Park’s buildings being pushed out, and many of the old houses torn down, I moved on to other areas, where Detroiters were attempting to make a life among urban ruins.
— Kevin Bauman, Denver, Colorado, USA
The images presented in No Place grew out of my interest in exploring the American landscape and the ways in which people alter it. When driving on photographic trips through the sprawling suburbs, I was struck by the amount of space given to large shopping centers and chain stores. I began asking myself, “Why do we need all these parking lots, fast food restaurants, and big box stores?”
These spaces force you to navigate them by car because of how spread out they are. Furthermore, a lot of these big box stores close or go out of business very fast, leaving vast vacant acres of asphalt and cavernous empty stores throughout our landscape. Once I began photographing these spaces I realized how much our landscape is changing.
Americans have undergone a paradigm shift in the places where we shop and dwell. We have traded in mom & pop stores and main street for big box stores and highways. Everything is fast, cheap, and easily available, like a fast food value meal. But like a value meal, what’s the true cost?
— John Lusis, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
The Island documents life on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The long and narrow string of barrier islands for many is a vacation destination. For me, it is much more. It is a place where I fell in love, married and hope to one day raise a family. The Island is my connection to a place that, like the tide, has its highs and lows.
The Outer Banks are undergoing changes from human forces and Mother Nature. Today, residents of the island are undergoing a heated debate about re-nourishing the dunes and protecting the island from the unforgiving waves of the Atlantic — or letting Mother Nature take her course and the ocean take what was once hers. No matter the outcome of this heated debate, this project serves as an important documentation as the sands of time change and shift the shape of the island.
Only time will tell if anything is left of a place I once called and still consider my home away from home. I can only hope the island is around for generations to come, but even if it is not, this project will be a testament of what once stood at the mercy of the Atlantic Ocean.
— Tim Gruber, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA