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Humanity’s impact on the landscape is profound. As the images here demonstrate, for millennia now we have altered our own environments for numerous reasons (war, commerce, survival, politics, pleasure…) and that the results, in turn, alter the way we live, implicating our actions and practices in an endless circle of cause and effect. The visible influence of our presence in the world is almost unavoidable, which begs the question: what does an un-altered landscape look like? Are Ansel Adams’ sensuous and bombastic images of the American West really representations of an untouched wilderness or has everything already been touched? Perhaps our visible presence—from the time worn paths of past trade routes to the rusted remains of more recent civilizations—is only the tip of an otherwise invisible iceberg of environmental alteration. In the vast web of planetary interconnectedness, what ripples did the first human footsteps create? The works presented here trace more recent ripples, forming a visual narrative about the tenuous ebb and flow of human existence in the natural world.
I would like to congratulate all of the finalists and thank everyone who submitted their work.
- Russell Lord
Russell Lord is the Freeman Family Curator of Photographs at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). Lord previously held positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Yale University Art Gallery, and has written widely on the history of photography. His recent publications include: Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument, and an essay on "Edward Burtynsky: Water". He is also currently working on a book about the permanent collection at NOMA to complement the exhibition Photography at NOMA: Selections from the Permanent Collection (at NOMA through January 19, 2014). Lord has lectured at many museums and universities including the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin, The National Gallery, Washington D.C., Yale University, Tulane University, and the Ryerson Image Center, Toronto. His past exhibitions include: Photography, Sequence, and Time; Reinventing Nature: Art from the School of Fontainebleau; and What is a Photograph? Much of his research focuses on the relationships between photography and other visual media.
In 1975, the landmark exhibition "New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape" debuted at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Included were such important photographers as Robert Adams, Frank Gohlke, and Stephen Shore, with work that challenged the primacy of wilderness landscape popularized by Ansel Adams and the Sierra Club. Typical of the photographs were images of human presence in the landscape, ranging from houses in subdivisions in Denver by Robert Adams to a water tower under construction by Gohlke. The PhotoPlace exhibition THE HUMAN-ALTERED LANDSCAPE updates the spirit of "New Topographics" with photographs that envision the interactions between humans and the natural world.
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