Human-Altered Landscapes: A Revolution in Landscape Photography

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During the 1960s and ’70s, there was a revolution in landscape photography, with artists creating images that revealed how humans were impacting the land around them.

Silver Lake Operations #14 (Lake Leroy, Western Australia), 2008. Chromogenic Print. 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm)
Silver Lake Operations #14 (Lake Leroy, Western Australia), 2008. Chromogenic Print. 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm)

Photograph by Edward Burtynsky, Museum Purchase: On to the Second Century Endowment, John J. Emery Memorial Fun, and various funds and courtesy Edward Burtynsky

“Before this, people thought of landscape art as rolling hills or a park view,” says Brian Sholis, associate curator of photography at the Cincinnati Art Museum. “What these photographers did 40 or 50 years ago was start a conversation about suburban sprawl.” Human-Altered Landscapes, a collection of these revolutionary works, is on display at CAM through July 19, accompanied by similar work from other photographers in the museum’s permanent collection. “We’ve brought together a generation of photographers who reinvented American landscape photography and paired it with a younger generation,” says Sholis. The majority of the collection documents the impact of man on the terrain of the American West, though a few international pieces are also featured. “There’s a picture from Australia of a mining operation that left a big scar in the land. There’s one portrait of a man working as a scavenger in an electronic dump on the outskirts of Ghana,” says Sholis. “The alterations to the land are pretty dramatic.”

Human-Altered Landscapes, Cincinnati Art Museum, thru July 19, cincinnatiartmuseum.org 

Originally published in the May 2015 issue.

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