One of the photographers who took part in New Topographics, Robert Adams, has continued to produce subtle, thought-provoking and environmentally aware photographs of natural scenery, juxtaposed with urban sprawl. He has been followed by many other photographers who have campaigned around environmental issues.
See Mitch Epstein’s American Power project: www.mitchepstein.net/work/
americanpower/ [accessed 28/01/14]
…and Fay Godwin’s Our Forbidden Land project, which you can search for online.
Note down your responses to these projects – and any others you find – in your learning log. Will your research influence your own choice of subject in future?
Adam Roberts’ black and white photographs taken mostly in the American west. I would say that the majority of them do not feature people and are rather sparse – a flat plain with a deserted road running through it, featuring mostly sky, for instance.
Paradoxically, however, we also need to see the whole geography, natural and man-made, to experience a peace; all land, no matter what has happened to it, has over it a grace, an absolutely persistent beauty.
Adam seems to like photographing the imperfect – the real world. His pictures don’t try to avoid rubbish dumped in the foreground, or houses that have seen better days. In his ‘What We Bought’ series taken around Denver, Colorado in 1973-74, there is a picture of an abandoned metal chair frame, rubbish strewn all over the grass, oil sludge burning, and half built homes.
Other recurring themes seem to be abandoned buildings, pollution, nondescript wooden homes, dry flats, trees, hills/mountains, rivers, rubbish, death, water, and deforestation. Adam seems to favour the unspoilt, but also features the opposite when he comes across it.
Mitch Epstein – American Power
In 2003, Epstein was assigned to photograph a story in a town where a power company was buying out the residents and taking over. He found there were some people who refused to sell, and this inspired him to spend five years travelling the country taking photos of all kinds of power producing sites like nuclear reactors, as well as petrol stations and solar ovens.
The pictures taken on this journey form American Power which has been exhibited in many forms, most recently as a 2011 stage production in collaboration with a cello player.
Photographs in the series capture scenes such as small homes and football fields with enormous cooling towers in the background, an oil refinery, a coal power plant, a woman who refused to sell to the power company, oil pipelines, and the aftermath of a hurricane.
Fay Godwin – Our Forbidden Land
Fay Godwin was a true nature lover and highly concerned about about the well being of our country’s land. Our Forbidden Land is a collection of photographs which display the way that the land is being threatened by exploitation by the military and developers.
Photographs include fenced off walkways, ‘private land’ notices and signposts, a ‘public footpath’ sign submerged in a water way, decaying paths, and barbed wire.
The work won the first ever ‘Green Book of the Year award’ and was something of a statement on our right to walk the land freely, as well as it’s destruction by pollution and development.
There are many more examples of ‘environmental photography’ out there – take this list of 28 by Trendhunter, for example.
Some interesting series I found were Ettore Moni‘s Alps, which shows the modifications to the landscape in order to accommodate skiing tourism.
Nicole Jean Hill‘s series Artifacts and Incidents explores human impact on the borders of rural land, and features graffiti and trash, as well as dead animals.
Finally here, I’ll mention Souvid Datta‘s photo series on China’s pollution problem. Photos feature things such as steel plant cooling towers spewing smoke across the landscape, children riding bikes with coal power plant chimneys in the background, huge factories dominating small rural areas, waste water dump sites from a textile factory, a photo of a man at a grave site mourning his brother who died of cancer, illegal land fill sites, and more.