Negativland explores places of loss, contradiction, disbelief and inversion. These are landscapes that are rooted in contradiction, opposite realities, blank spaces, and misleading perspectives. Negativland brims with clouded vision, the presence of inexplicable sources of light, hyper-reflective surfaces, uncomfortable angles, and deceptively-situated shadows to provide expressions of unnatural juxtapositions — in-between spaces in the midst of falling apart, unraveling landscapes where meaning shifts and memory fails.
— Margaret Inga Wiatrowski, New York City, USA
Maps are beautiful and fascinating documents of the interaction between man and Nature. They embody our twin instincts to measure the world around us and to represent that world in abstract form, and in both of these they are the products of reality and of the imagination.
I like to explore these themes by imitating the practice of surveyors and mapmakers of old. I go into the landscape with my “mapmaking” tools – a camera and a mirror – to make surveys of my own, taking “readings” by flagging or tracing around natural features with the mirror so that flashes or ghost-like trajectories are recorded in the camera.
My practice gives me an opportunity for expression that contrasts vividly with photography’s mechanical nature, and brings me into alignment with the real mapmaker, whose quiet presence can never be subtracted from the maps he makes.
— Nick Dykes, London, United Kingdom
This series, titled NOA, is taken in the Northwestern region of Argentina — commonly referred to as NOA. It is an arid region of salt flats and volcanoes in the high pre-Andean plains towards the Chilean and Bolivian borders. This particular selection of images are shot at an average altitude of 4,000 meters, where the air is scarce, animals are a rare sight, and the indigenous plants are low-growing shrubs, bushes and grass.
I was instantly struck by the otherworldly magnificence of the landscape, and wanted to document it and convey this through the photographs. I chose to exclude the horizon in the composition, and leave as few clues as to scale as possible. The result of this is a rather disorienting image, where proportions and perspective are perplexing. This sense of disorientation is similar to how I felt when I was there: the high altitude, lack of air, total silence, and infinite expanse gave rise to feelings of confusion, vulnerability and daunting. I also feel that the square format distances these images from the more traditional landscape format, and therefore allows for further ambiguities.
— Emma Livingston, Buenos Aires, Argentina
With the ultra-conservative Popular Party’s arrival in the Spanish government, a new, highly-probable Coastal Law will free the land, and the construction and land speculation which had been stopped due to the economic crisis will recommence. What looked like it might be an opportunity to avoid more coastal destruction may just be an illusion. Cement may cover the sand again.
While along the coast, emptiness fills the streets, waterparks, apartments and hotels. Excessive growth has turned the landscape into a big mass of asphalt, swimming pools and purposely-placed palm trees. In summer there’s a mass of swimwear and towels, cars and bikes, “paellas” and beer. However, the rest of the year, most of the year, there is nothing. Blinds down. Closed for (non) holiday. Low season.
— Oriol Clavera, Barcelona, Catalan Countries
The Real Unknown is a term that Lewis and Clark noted in their journals as they left the last settlement bordering the then-unexplored western territories of the United States. Embodying this concept and expanding upon its use as a metaphor for unanticipated discovery, this project delves into the contemporary American landscape, focusing on real estate sites.
While making work in and around suburban spaces I began taking note of signs at the edges of undeveloped property, declaring future use and value. Conjured by developers and real estate agents, these placards typically offer detailed descriptions used to sell the property. This view of natural space presented in stark, commoditized terms stood in contrast to my personal feelings about nature and land use. As someone who enjoys overgrown lots and untouched landscapes the thought of these parcels being developed, in an all-too-familiar fashion, immediately fueled my desire to begin photographing them before they were gone. I am using the descriptions as titles for each piece, finding that they function as a blatant and powerful counterweight to the inherent visual quality of these spaces. They are a potent example of an altered perception of the American landscape, one that has gone from uncharted wilderness to a parceled, divided and mapped terrain, in only a few generations.
Turning back to the land itself, The Real Unknown explores relationships between the insatiable urge to constantly alter our landscape and the often-indescribable allure of the natural world. For some, these spaces represent pure commodity, another opportunity to profit from the unceasing development of America. However, spending time in these places has given me a different perspective. I see an untouched world with sublime and contemplative qualities — one that holds mystery, still offers the potential for discovery, and challenges our understanding of exactly what it is and should become.
— Justin James Reed, Virginia, USA
Safety First is an ongoing project exploring the misappropriation of safety materials in public space. The key element of the series is the humor which rises in the visual from the misappropriation itself, as throughout our lives we are taught about appropriate boundaries and the lines which we should not cross, yet when these materials are employed in an unorthodox fashion, they lose their power of authority and become foils to themselves, as their own perceived strength – as barriers which safely and functionally guide us through our collective space on an ongoing basis – is lost.
— Taylor Holland, Paris, France
These images are part of a project that documents the uneasy transition of a large undeveloped suburban area in the Twin Cities into a planned community of megastores, strip malls, high-density housing and hotels. It is a landscape of intent on a vast scale. A drive through the heart of this area drives the point home; one side of the road is a converging sea of themed architecture in various stages of completion, while the on the opposite side is a vista of endless mountains of dirt, rock and sand being carved out of the earth.
For four years I spent many mornings and evenings there photographing this evolving landscape. On one level, my photos are documents of the physical power exerted upon the landscape by the equipment that is rendering the land. On another level, the images aim to convey the emotional undercurrents of violence, desolation and control that one encounters when immersed in this landscape.
— Chuck Avery, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
During the early years of the 21st century, Las Vegas was the fastest-growing metro area in the US. In Vegas, there was a job for anyone who wanted to work; housing all those workers meant new homes went up as fast as builders could drive the nails, and mortgage lenders could close the deals. But things that can’t last don’t; when the housing bubble inevitably burst in 2008, Vegas became Ground Zero, the sad exemplar of a cratered economy. Nevada has led the nation in home foreclosures since 2007. Yet on it parties, like an aging frat boy trying to convince himself he’s still having fun.
It would be obvious simply to photograph the shuttered buildings and acres of unsold tract homes that bespatter the metro area; those are the physical manifestations of the Vegas economalypse. But beneath these encrustations of recent man-made history, there also remains the starkly beautiful, human-imprinted southern-Nevada desert, with its astonishing light and rich palette of colors. I have long had an interest in the built landscape, and in few places is it as photogenic as in this part of the American southwest.
What about the visitors, the tourists, whose dollars had kept the whole place afloat? Cab drivers, bellhops, and others who perform the city’s “small jobs” tell me that they keep coming to Vegas — the crowds I negotiated during my 2010 visit affirmed that fact — but they are fewer in number, and spending far less money than in better times past. Despite the melted trillions of national wealth, people still need — perhaps more than ever — a getaway. But, walking along the Strip, there is the faintest whiff of threadbare fatigue about the environment. You can sense the unease behind the faces of the passersby, a discordant note in a city devoted to fantasy and gratification. This unease is what I felt so strongly; it’s what I’ve started, and hope to continue, to explore as this project develops.
— Michael Sebastian, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Although I have always felt a strong affinity to the land, I never purposefully made art about nature. Nonetheless, as a farmer I began to find ways to incorporate daily chores into my art, and the more I worked the land, a new appreciation formed.
My ongoing series of photographs titled Candescent Fields is as much about farming practices as it is modernist painting. Initially, my intention in photographing the annual grass-seed field burnings in Oregon’s Willamette Valley was to document the whole process, from the logistics of starting the fires to the regeneration of the blackened fields.
I was continually struck by the rich textures and contrasting tones created by the blaze and billowing smoke juxtaposed with the surrounding untouched fields. Public outcry has initiated restrictions on the practice, and farmers see this as a threat to their livelihood. I appreciate both perspectives, yet was motivated by the stark beauty of the fire and its aftermath.
— Patrick Collier, Stayton, Oregon, USA