Browse this exhibition online - FlakPhoto.com/lal
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Since 2006, I have promoted contemporary image-makers and archived their work in The Flak Photo Collection, a web-based photography archive available exclusively online. Not surprisingly, many of those pictures reflect my personal interest in the environment and how humans respond to the land. So I was delighted when Jan Howard, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the RISD Museum of Art, invited me to produce a projection of 21st century landscapes to complement her exhibition, America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now.
The museum’s print collection affords a comprehensive representation of the style and approach photographers have brought to their interpretations of the land over the past 150 years. This exhibition provides an opportunity to focus on current practice. Ours is a digitally networked photo culture, so naturally the Web played a significant role in its creation and execution.
In the spirit of inclusivity — and with hopes for serendipitous discovery — I extended a public call on the Internet for ‘photographs depicting landscape in the United States since 2000.’ That request was broad, by design, the aim being to crowdsource a visual definition of present-day photographic landscape. Artists from around the globe submitted more than 5,500 images in response yet many of them were reluctant to assign the genre to their work. Clearly, the idea of landscape photography is in as much flux today as it ever was.
Photographers are doing what they’ve always done — looking at the land with a camera to explore, understand, critique and comment upon humankind’s relationship with nature. The subject matter has changed with each new generation, as have the impressions of the photographers behind the lens. This survey is by no means exhaustive but it does signal the beginning of a fertile new era in the ever-evolving landscape photo tradition. It studies a cross-section of current landscape photography in the documentary style. Most of these pictures depict actual places and their content says much about the United States and the American people. We live in a post-New Topographics landscape where an entire generation of photographers was born and raised in suburban sprawl. Wilderness is a foreign concept. Our environment has been significantly altered. We live with nature at arm's length. Photography describes these things.
And yet, these images are subjective interpretations, not objective facts.
Why do people photograph places? What compels artists to make images of the land? Are their intentions similar or different than previous generations? The advantage of an exhibition like this is that we have the luxury of putting these questions to the artists themselves. Early in the process of organizing these images, I interviewed each of the eighty-eight contributing photographers to understand the motivations that drove their work. I soon realized that these first-person accounts added new meaning to the viewing experience and should accompany the pictures they inspired. I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did collecting them.
Looking at the Land is about more than the pictures it presents; it’s about the ideas and experiences that move the people who made them. Many of these artists have been formally trained. Some are self-taught. All of them are impacted by popular culture and a deep awareness of the history of the landscape art tradition. These are 21st century photographic views; they're also personal perspectives that illustrate current practice in landscape picture-making. Understanding the things that influence these photographers is key to learning how their tradition is evolving.
Internet culture and digital media play key roles in my photo work so it was a natural decision to present this show publicly online. We've designed the exhibition so you can view it wherever you are in the world, on your home computer or mobile touchscreen. If you like what you see here please feel free to mention the project in your blog or share it with friends, colleagues and students who would enjoy it.
Thanks so much for looking.