Spaces of dross are the in-between waste spaces in the landscape. Left as a result of sprawl, these spaces are in a constant state of flux between use and disuse. I explore these mundane spaces using the camera as an apparatus that can reframe and order the world. Through my use of the large format camera I create images of dross that also function as markers of the sublime. In focusing on spaces of dross, but using my camera more like a canvas, I set up a dualistic relationship between earth and sky in order reference painterly representations of the sublime. This relationship speaks to a high/low binary that exists in the American landscape between spaces of preservation and spaces of waste, humans’ free will to shape land and its use, as well as the ideologies that define the way we understand natural forms.
Peter Croteau, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
While shooting for my project NoSafeDistance, for which I received a 2012 Individual Artist Fellowship for Photography from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, I began to think more about photography without permission, and realized that while I was making photographs, I was being photographed as well. This is an examination of the ways we are all being photographed, sometimes even in the most benign landscape.
I now see cameras everywhere, often security cameras pointed at me. Sometimes outside, sometimes inside, often they even come with warning signs. I’ve chosen to point my camera at the cameras. No matter where you go it seems, there they are.
Smile. Or not.
— Sheri Lynn Behr, Edgewater, New Jersey, USA
Like most children of my generation, I was an avid reader with a very active imagination. I created stories full of intrepid characters and riveting adventures like those in Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels. Amusement Parks inspired me to bring that world of fantasy to life. I could hear the whoosh of the wind, the screeching of the metal, and the kids screaming. Beyond all this, I discovered hidden voices, ones that spoke from inside plastic creatures, from giants who were asleep, and toys in a world of Lilliputians. It was also my father and grandfather’s favorite place, where we shared laughs and fears, the sound of the carrousel, my favorite cotton candy and enjoyed the last very second of those memorable afternoons. They both passed away when I was very young, so these adventures still resonate in my mind as a wonderful and vivid experience.
As an adult, I began to revisit some of these memories and parks, just after sundown, when tired families were heading home. The twilight brings an ominous feel to the parks and the absence of people opens a space for me to create my own stories. There is also a stillness that allows me to bring back my memories, and I feel the echoes of my childhood and my family, who are no longer physically here, but their presence is still palpable.
These photographs represent my past and present. Not only do they remind me of fun and fantasy, but also of fear and uncertainty. The empty spaces remind me of what I have lost, but they also invite me for one last ride, one last adventure… before the lights go out.
— Eleonora Ronconi, Santa Clara, California, USA
When I began making these photographs, titled Interface, I had been thinking a lot about issues of land use and growth. I became interested in what could be found at the margins — between city and wild areas. Not in the most obvious and extreme examples, but in the most normal everyday places, in plain sight. In this interface there is evidence of a dance where human construction invades and nature slowly returns. A subtle type of asymmetric warfare where the brute force of progress skirmishes with the persistence of nature. As I explored these in-between places I found views of seemingly preternatural artifacts and arrangements turned out by the fray.
In contrast to ideas of conventional beauty in the landscape it became an exposé of the insidious. This study also became an exploration of my own conflicted beliefs and values. In fact, we are all, in one or many ways, complicit in unbridled progress and growth, the consequences of which are becoming more apparent every day. And yet these places are still beautiful.
Nietzsche concluded that in order to decide if something is right or wrong, one needs to ask, does the action affirm life or negate it? To affirm life one must welcome it in its entirety, reveling in the painful and tragic right along with the joyous. To look away, to retreat into some other realm for false comfort, is to negate life.
— David Kressler, Brooklyn, New York, USA
I have always been attracted by those small houses, accompanied by a tree and scattered across the rural landscape of La Mancha, Spain. Former shelters of farmers and animals, they synthesize somehow the relationship between man and nature, like a metaphor of our origin. This project shows a series of photographs that explore the dialogue between houses and trees, construction elements and plants, the fight of humanity against nature, and its integration into the surrounding landscape. Pictures of the countryside and the beauty of simplicity. For this project, I have been aging cotton papers of high quality, using traditional natural dyes and oxides, which, after drying, are printed using pigmented inks. The codes at the bottom of each image represent the compass coordinates of the actual location of each shot.
— Jose Quintanilla, Madrid, Spain
By traveling the New Jersey Turnpike often and noticing the visual complexities of the terrain, I set out to photograph the site-specific visual relationships created by nature and man-made technologies and specifically how one encroaches on the other. Through photographing sites visible via the NJ Turnpike using a 4×5 camera, I discovered the difficulties a photographer encounters when documenting certain locations. In many spots, warning signs were posted threatening jail time or fines on those taking photos or engaging in “suspicious activity.” During my time creating this series, run-ins with cops were common. While I believe my images succeed in highlighting the relationship between man and nature, a series which was simple in theory also turned into a political statement of what I could get away with as a photographer living in an age of fear.
— Skyla Dawn Pojednic, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
The photographs in this series, titled Scarred Land, which were all produced in Israel, deal with war, the damage it inflicts upon the terrain, and the natural recovery over time. The battle sites and military training zones depicted have not been memorialized or preserved in any way, and are now naturally recovering from the inflicted trauma as well as being reclaimed by the earth. The focus of the imagery on war zones is to portray to the viewer that this is how we, as human beings, treat each other and the world we live in.
We are a unique species defined by our intelligence: the ability of abstract thought, understanding, self- awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving. This intelligence enables us to create/invent ever growing technologies through which to better our lives. Unfortunately, some of these technologies are also implemented for the purpose to assault one another and to defend ourselves, which in turn damages the Earth. In my opinion the rationale for going to war with another nation, state or people — whether it be over resources, religious ideology, cultural differences, or power — is completely absurd. If everyone took the time to look at the larger picture, the traumas inflicted during war and in its aftermath have detrimental repercussions for not only us and future generations, but for the planet we inhabit and all of its living beings. Therefore, the ramifications are not advantageous to anyone or anything and we could eventually be the means to our own demise.
— Beth A. Gilbert, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
This series, titled Amargosa, is about a river that cannot be seen but that makes its presence felt through the human and natural landscapes it creates and supports on the surface above.
The Amargosa River flows under the Mojave Desert for 185 miles from Nevada into Death Valley in California. It is an underground river for most of its course. Visible above it are optimistic preparations to channel and direct its flow during flash floods. The quality of these waters is low (Amargosa means bitter in Spanish), but it is enough to allow life to subsist around it.
Beyond the scattered clues on the surface, it is almost an act of faith to believe that a significant amount of water truly flows below the desert here.
The invisible Amargosa River may be in danger of being diverted and its water used to supply Las Vegas. Not only would such a move put an end to the delicate natural ecosystems that depend on the Amargosa, it would also spell the end for the close small communities that have managed to carve a niche for themselves here as well.
— Lewis Francis, Long Beach, California, USA
I have worked as a train driver for 19 years in France and Belgium, and in that time I have seen the evolution and mutation of the railroad landscape. I used a camera to record this mutation of my work environment. It’s a bit of a “duty” to remember. Many of the original buildings have disappeared and there are no pictures of these, so I try to keep this memory alive with photography. I keep a neutral view without artifice.
— Stephane Bednarek, Poix Du Nord, France
Rambles in the Parks: Olmsted’s Distant Effects in the Pacific Northwest is a multi-disciplinary, fine-art photographic-based research project. The photographs focus on the Olmsted brothers’ substantial opus of parks, institutions, and residential spaces throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho. My emphasis is on the parks and their overall designs, plants, habitats, edges, waterways, architecture and topiary. Rambles in the Parks examines seasonal changes and their effects on the parks, both in terms of quality of light and how the seasons change our perceptions of space and place. In addition, I employ historical research that includes a re-photographic component: juxtaposing historical images and maps, for example, with my contemporary photographs.
— Dennis DeHart, Moscow, Idaho, USA