In my research for this piece, I accidentally ran across the work of Steven B. Smith
Smith photographs landscapes in the midst of development.
Sculpted Fence #8, Bloomington, Utah, 2007
I thought it was interested that he focused on developments where the design of the structures and surrounding spaces attempted to integrate with the local environment.
As with the slow food movement, the rise of eco-concerns in recent years has shifted the ways many people view their own position and participation in the radical transition of so much natural land into spaces for use. Softening the contrast of natural verses man-made seems to be one way of convincing ourselves that all this new devolopment isn’t entirely destructive, regardless of the evidence that it is.
Too few are really interested in the long term solution- which is restraint in continued development, but details like this are evidence of the emergence of the consciousness of our increasingly overwhelming footprint on the land.
Smith zeros in on the biggest issue (in the west) over development— water. Without access to water development is not possible, yet for decades municipalities have appeased developers and have managed to steer water toward new development at great cost to local waterways, wet lands, and eco-systems which will have long term consequences.
Saratoga Springs, Utah, 2009
North Salt Lake, Utah, 2006
Bio info from his website:
Steven B. Smith is a photographer whose work chronicles the transition of the Western landscape into suburbia. For this work he was awarded the First Book Prize for Photography by the Honickman Foundation and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. His book The Weather and a Place to Live: Photographs of the Suburban West was published by Duke University Press (2005). He has received Guggenheim and Aaron Siskind Fellowship.
Sculpted Fence #7, Ivins, Utah, 2008
“The idea I had of using conservation methods as my language helped me step up to the plate and work with a subject matter that had been explored a lot, and well. While I felt a little nervous about photographing in a similar vein, I also felt there was something more that needed to be said. The landscape continues to evolve. The technology for restraining the land, as well as bringing in water, has changed dramatically in the past ten years—in fact, it changes every couple of years.”
Herriman, Utah, 2007, #3
“I started trying to use the landscape as a still-life. I remember reading about how Walker Evans would go on scouting trips during the summer and winter, because he didn’t like the light those times of year—he was very particular about the kind of light that he wanted.”
North Las Vegas, Nevada, 2003.
“I don’t want these issues to overwhelm the form and content of the physical photograph. The politics is in there, but I’m trying to take a tone that isn’t accusatory. There aren’t any easy answers. Sometimes it’s scary, and beautiful, because the land is all torn up and being completely reconfigured. But once the landscaping grows in, it looks like a pretty decent, well-managed, well-thought-out place. And then there are examples that are not nearly so nice. I’m trying to show the complexity of what is out there, what these water and soil control systems do to the land. One of my main issues, that I’ve tried to point out directly, is how water is used and channeled, and how water in these areas is imported.”
Las Vegas, Nevada, 1997
La Mirada, California, 2003
“When I encountered developers or other construction people, they tended to be pretty conservative, and they’d let me know my views weren’t really appreciated. [Laughs.] But I tried to avoid asking them what they thought—politically, I’m not in favor of this massive expansion and development.”