New Topographics

Unit 33 lens based image making critieria P 1

The Tate describes New topographics as a term coined by William Jenkins in 1975 to describe a group of American photographers (such as Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz) whose pictures had a similar banal aesthetic, in that they were formal, mostly black and white prints of the urban landscape.

We discussed this in class and the base for most of the images is the photography of man-made structures within the environment or that have had an impact due to urbanisation or encroachment into the environment be it factorys…petrol stations or shopping centres anything that shows the impact man has had to the environment.

The form can hark back to the Bechers.. Bernd and Hilla, Since the late 1950s the Bechers had been photographing various obsolete man made structures, mainly post-industrial carcasses or carcasses-to-be, in Europe and America. They first exhibited them in series, as “typologies”,  often shown in grids and had a visual similarity however the subjects were considered to be “uninteresting” or “regular” and not something that would be considered at the time as photographically appealing.

Above – The New West – Robert Adams

We looked at a couple of Robert Adams images from his project The New west which was published in 1974 and showed a new photographic representation of the American landscape. Adams focused on documenting the construction of  mobile homes, subdivisions, shopping centers, and urban sprawl in the suburbs of Colorado Springs and the Denver area. Objective and direct, Adams’s photographs, rendered in his signature middle-gray scale, unsentimentally depict a despoiled landscape washed in the intense Colorado sunlight.

To me these photos seem unremarkable in their visuality and not particularly what I would call an interesting view but that is part of the story of the images, I believe they were taken to give that exact point across to the viewer, to show exactly the uniformity and unnapealing nature of the human push into the landscape. To show what the natural beauty of the american romantisised west had been replaced with and to garner a reaction to that percieved debeautification.

Several of Adams other works also point to this same innevitable fact, that the constant building and construction of grey concrete monstrositys and brightly lit electric urban jungles persued by the human race has an unedning and sometimes devestatiing affect of the lanscape, the environment and the planetwide ecological state.

One thought on “New Topographics

  1. Pingback: Finalising the P&E project – Lee Tilley Photography

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