Erik Sæter Jørgensen

Hardanger is a geographic area in the Norwegian west. The fjords of the west are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Hardangerfjord is the third-largest in the world. The awesome beauty and the arch-typical Norwegianness of the region has made sure it’s been depicted more often than any other part of romanticist Norway.

Today, Hardanger is being destroyed by unrestrained capitalism and nebulous political forces. Under the guise of securing the power supply of Norway’s second largest city, Bergen, the government — through the state-owned company Statnett — has powered through the decision to build a new power line cutting through the unique landscape. In reality, the line is being built to provide the oil rigs in the North Sea with electrical power. This in turn enables Norway to shift a large part of its C02 emissions onto other European countries.

I started photographing the area in the summer of 2011, before most of the construction work had begun. A few weeks ago I returned to join the activists in their last act of civil disobedience. “This will never be forgiven,” said one of the banners. The line will soon be finished, but I will return.

— Erik Sæter Jørgensen, Stavanger, Norway

Book Review: Where Will You Spend Eternity ?

Where Will You Spend Eternity ?, by Sylvia de Swaan

De Swaan’s photobook contains poetry, an essay, an artist’s statement and an account from a couple who visited Utica, New York and stayed with de Swaan. The book is a meditation on her adopted hometown, a small post-industrial city in Upstate New York.

The 84 photos included are subtle, building as a body of work, a visual poem.

Take this extended sequence: an image of a snow-covered back yard leads to a picture of a snow-covered statue of Jesus, then a picture of a yellow ribbon in a wintry yard. Next we see a pattern of snow on paving stones — broken very faintly by one person’s footsteps. The series continues with a snowy scene of a house with a large peace symbol spray-painted on its door, and the word “peace” written on the front of the house.

De Swaan continues this riff with an image of a garage painted with the words “world peace in the streets.” Someone has spray-painted a thin black line through the phrase — still leaving it entirely legible. On the facing page is a bullet hole in a window. Turn the page and see blacktop with two figures painted onto it, appearing to walk toward each other. The final image in this series is a boarded-up house with the words “peace in the streets” painted on it. This time none of the words are crossed out.

While many of the photos portray a gloomy rust-belt landscape, de Swaan includes signs of hope: the Cambodian Buddhist procession, the painted wall with an image of Martin Luther King, Jr., the freight train with the words “No Remorse !” painted onto it. She also creates humor, as when she pairs a trailer with an image of a slumbering woman opposite a shot of a McDonald’s sign urging us to “Wake up Happy.”

De Swaan’s book title asks about eternity, but the photographer is fascinated by the details of the here and now — how we live out our days — whether at war or at peace, in wealth or poverty, alone or together.

Where Will You Spend Eternity ? was self-published, and is available through Blurb.

— Willson Cummer

Ryan Koopmans

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

Joël Tettamanti

I went to south Greenland to visit my Danish family, to the city of Qaqortoq. The third largest city in Greenland, which is actually not that big, it has about 2,000 inhabitants and only some four to six kilometers of roads. You can’t get out from the city. You are really stuck there. In the winter you can only fly in with helicopter or come by boat. Every week there is a boat coming over from Denmark to supply the city with food.

Greenland has features similar to Switzerland: it is an isolated place, surrounded by mountains, snow, but then again it is a very different place. There are other mountains, other ways of using the mountains. Mountains are a problem to them. They almost fight the nature and climate. Houses need to be of very elementary architecture, few windows, good protection against the cold. Greenland is nearly an impossible place to live. In the winter it is incredibly cold and summer might be even worse with all the mosquitoes. I was impressed by the obsession of people staying in a place that is so clearly not made for humans.

— Joël Tettamanti, Lausanne, Switzerland

John King

We mark the land. These photographs portray the Canadian Newfoundland landscape with evidence of human activity. Sometimes land is in transition, altered by the actions of construction. At other times land is marked to delineate a place that is important to people. In all of these, an undifferentiated wilderness has been changed by the imposition of a human order.
These images continue a long-standing interest in photographing the natural world and the intersection of human presence in the natural landscape.

— John King, Clarenville, Canada

Michael Bach

There is a palpable sense of sadness and despair felt when walking in the woods and fields of Mt. Ida, as if a dark veil enshrouded the landscape. While stumbling across remnants of failed lives and desperate attempts of domesticity, one cannot help to think of those forced to endure such hardship. In 2010, the city of Troy, New York permanently banished the homeless from the land. It was then that I chose to carry out the project Displaced, to be a memorial to the landscape and a testament to the people who called this place home.

In photographing, I was less interested in literally documenting what I came upon and more in the narrative contained in the personal ephemera, belongings, and structures for living. I wanted to avoid personal bias or the overt social and political implications of the subject matter, allowing the spirits of this neglected landscape to shine through. The photographs are intentionally left open-ended. In the end, the viewers will have their own personal experiences when viewing the work.

During the time I have been working, construction projects have threatened and overtaken portions of the land. I dutifully photographed what was to be eliminated. Presently, the construction of another building has eradicated the landscape once more. Eighty percent of what I have photographed no longer exists. This includes the landscape itself, as well as what was left behind by the homeless. I fear that much of the land of Mt. Ida will, slowly but surely, succumb to this conflicting relationship between man and nature.

— Michael Bach, Troy, New York, USA

Natalia Pokrovskaya

The edge effect rule in ecology: sharp edges between ecosystems are seldom seen, but in transition zones, called ecotones, where environments are more contrasting, biodiversity is higher.

The Moscow River exists “backwards”: the movement happens outside of it, the life around flows by, avoiding the river as if it were a heterogenous element built in the landscape. No swimming, no fishing.

This project, titled The Edge Effect, studies how that effect appears when people interact with the Moscow River. It’s at the contact points where this “biodiversity” appears — new, bizarre behavioral patterns and cultural strata, as if thrown out on the riverside by the current. Observing them, I see a bigger story — about how people behave encountering the unknowable.    

— Natalia Pokrovskaya, Moscow, Russia

Ben Altman

I look for a beach, usually facing West, and set up my 4×5 or 8×10 camera, often at sunset. As the light fades, I make long exposures of the last few feet of sand, a few feet of water, and the shifting edge between them, allowing the motion of the waves and reflections of the sky to combine in unpredictable ways with the chemistry of the film. I crop the resulting images to exclude the horizon and to emphasize ambiguities of scale and substance, looking for effects that are both seductive and unsettling when printed at large size.

— Ben Altman, Ithaca, New York, USA

Jeff Alu

My style hovers between documentary and a semi-dreamlike state. I’m constantly searching for what I like to call “clues.” These clues generally represent the initiation of questions that should be asked, rather than answers to pre-defined questions. I never have a set idea of what it is I’m looking for. I simply seek, occasionally finding exactly what it is I wasn’t seeking. For me, that’s the time I learn something new about life: when I discover a new path, a new way of seeing, a new reason for continuing my search.

— Jeff Alu, Los Angeles, California, USA