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.
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
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.
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
City of Vallejo, 1860s. There was an innocent pride back then, in the bustle of commerce and in signs of "progress."