Fake Lakes and Other Curious Sites, NC (2017 – ongoing)

Working in the vein of traditional landscape photography, I photograph sites of human and technological intervention. The history of human intervention in the landscape is often invisible to the casual observer, yet it is drastically transformative and impacts the future ecological state of the planet. I create images that allude to the idea that the landscape as we perceive it does not tell the whole story. 

Once I started researching, it was difficult to find locations of natural beauty that did not also have a history of an intervention. An artificial lake is installed by damming a river in the Blue Ridge Mountains; major watersheds are contaminated with coal ash and hog waste; mountaintop fields are manicured for tourist enjoyment; a dune that naturally shifts over time is kept in place with truckloads of sand dumped on top; a grove of trees indicates the spot where remnants of a hydrogen bomb were accidentally buried after a plane crash. Some of these things are nefarious. Some of them are curious. All of them are formative human interventions within the natural environment. None of them are readily visible.

By using artificial lighting and Photoshop autoblending algorithms to stand in as metaphors for these interventions, I blur the line between the landscape as seen and the landscape as reimagined by technological processes and interventions. Multiple iterations of some scenes suggest the various possible manifestations of landscape and technology intertwined. These iterations suggest the various ways that a human intervention may impact a sites future ecological state – often a change to the landscape spurs other unforeseen, uncontrolled changes. In the same way that an intervention may set a series of unforeseen events into motion, I grapple with the unexpected in the image-making process. I cannot precisely control how light may affect a scene outside of the studio. In the Autoblend Iterations, I cannot predict the iterations of my landscapes that Photoshop will generate, and the image of the landscape often becomes marred or strangely cut out, leaving pixelated marks as a sign of the algorithmic process.

This tension with control over final output mirrors the unpredictable results when humans intervene with natural processes. Throughout this work, I challenge the veracity of the photograph by fictionalizing the original document with these processes, yet they remain both documentary and photographic in nature.