Nature and Civilization in American Landscape Photography

The tradition of landscape photography has changed, from including human presence as part of the natural order, to picturing a wilderness separate from civilization, to "New Topographics," and now, to showing man's destructive effects on nature.



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Cyanide Leaching Fields,1989. "A terrible beauty" characterizes the work of many contemporary photographers, some of whom—almost like daredevils—look straight into the toxicity enveloping us.
DAVID MAISEL
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Excavation, Deforestation, and Waste Ponds, 1984. Here again, the contemporary eye ranges over devastation, seeking not only to document horror but, paradoxically, to portray an abstract, distancing aesthetic as well. 
FOTOMANN GALLERY/DAVID T. HANSON
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Dunes, Oceano, 1936. To this generation of photographers, humans or signs of their presence became irrelevant, were even shunned. Instead, they sought to capture nature in its pure, unsullied forms.
PHOTO: ARIZONA BOARD OF REGENTS, CENTER FOR CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY/EDWARD WESTON
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City of Vallejo, 1860s. There was an innocent pride back then, in the bustle of commerce and in signs of "progress."
FRAENKEL GALLERY, S.F./CARLETON WATKINS











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