New Topographic

A label for a group of photographers who came to prominence in the 1970s and brought a new perspective to landscape photography that focused on an objective documentation of locations. Often, works labeled New Topographics also emphasized the relationship between man and nature through the documentation of industrial intrusions on land and scenes of suburban sprawl, motels, and parking lots. –

Lewis Baltz & Robert Adams

Robert Adams: The place we live

The tonal contrast in this frame is really strong. It pushes all the emphasis on to the smoke, and how thick and unsettling it is in the landscape. It presented what a human has created, without showing any human presence. The focus is all on the landscape, and how the smoke is not part of its natural essence.

Lewis Baltz

I feel the architecture landscape has a more direct link to humans being here, as you can imagine a person being there at any minute. Again, the contrast drives the frame allowing it to be powerful and make a statement.

“The pictures were stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion,.” “[…] rigorous purity, deadpan humor and a casual disregard for the importance of the images.” (From Wikipedia)

MR. BALTZ:  Okay, that’s at least two really good questions.  Let me see if I can evade both of them.  I don’t know when I had this little epiphany, but if you have a human subject, the person is in the picture.  Right?  And an uninhabited picture has the possibility of the viewer projecting him or herself into the picture.  That interested me.  The pictures are full of – and they’re all about, you know, manmade – or can we say that now – person made environments.  There’s no purely natural environment in any of my photographs.  In fact, in most of them the only natural element may be the sky, and it’s not wholly natural these days either.

My work is full of people – the traces of people – but they’re present in their absence – and maybe this is something I got from Wright Morris’s The Inhabitants.  There’s an implied human presence in all my work. –

What I have learnt from the new topographic photography is almost exactly what I am trying to portray. The absence of people in the images is just as important as the implication of them being there, the viewer needs to understand their affect on the landscape. A viewer is no longer looking at a natural landscape, but something their own kind has built. I really enjoy the simplicity of the photographs. They are so simple that you almost have no choice but to read in to the landscape, the ambiguity of them explains how the landscape is being changed.

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