In 1975 an exhibition named New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape was held in the International Museum of Photography in New York City. It featured works by a number of photographers – the Americans Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel, Jr., and the German couple Bernd and Hilla Becher. Each photographer exhibited 10 photographs.
New Topographics presented a different way of photographing landscapes, eschewing the traditional natural environments and instead presenting images of scenes with a clear human footprint, such as industry, suburbia, gas stations, parking lots and the like.
While I only came across the term in recent years, and at no point set out to be a “new topographer”, it’s clear that many of my photographs fall into the style. I’ve no doubt found influence in the works of photographers who were in turn influenced by the works of the artists presented in the original exhibition, although of the ten, I only have photobooks by Stephen Shore (though there are undoubtedly works by the others collected in other books in my collection).
It’s a style that doesn’t appeal to all. For many, the subjects of such photographs are ruinous blots on the landscape, detracting and imposing on the traditional bucolic scenes more often considered as landscape photography. But I have a place in my heart for both.
Grass fields and blue lakes
Overlooked by new homes
It was once a mine
Olympus OM-2N, Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.8 + orange filter & Ilford Delta 100. Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 12mins @ 20°.
Taken on 4 April 2021