New Topographics: Redefining Landscape Photography


A quick look at the photographers of the New Topographics show whose images redefined the idea of landscape in photography.

Transcript Provided by YouTube:

00:04
when you think of landscape photography
00:06
you probably imagine the work events a
00:08
lot of the technical precision and
00:10
compositional mastery of his images
00:12
lifted the American wilderness into the
00:14
utopic but as environmentalism took hold
00:17
of the public conscience in the 1970s
00:20
landscape photography began to reinvent
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its identity
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the heroic images of Sierra Club
00:25
photographers like Ansel Adams were
00:27
rejected in favor of a new understanding
00:28
of the natural world that showed
00:30
landscapes and human activity as
00:33
interminably connected rather than
00:35
separate this new way of visualizing
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landscapes was pioneered by 10
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photographers whose works were first
00:41
displayed collectively in a small show
00:43
at the Eastman House in upstate New York
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curator titled the exhibition new topic
00:48
graphics photographs of a man altered
00:50
landscape at its core the new
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topographic show challenged traditional
00:54
landscape images such as those events
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will Adams with a new photographic
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environmentalism that highlighted the
01:00
presence of humanity in nature one of
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the new topographic photographers Robert
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Adams of no relation to Ansel Adams puts
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this interrogation of landscape imagery
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to work in his 1973 image mobile homes
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Jefferson County Colorado the photograph
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splits a Colorado environment into on
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the top adams presents an ominous
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mountainscape with moody clouds
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reminiscent of the classic nature
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photograph while on the bottom he
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captures the harsh edges of mobile homes
01:28
blasted with sunlight the contrast
01:30
between the angular houses and the
01:32
smooth edge of the mountainside creates
01:34
an obvious conflict between humans and
01:36
nature in this case the photograph seems
01:39
to say that the Colorado landscape is
01:41
not the pristine wilderness that Ansel
01:43
Adams created in his pieces but instead
01:45
is a site of interaction between humans
01:48
and the inhuman as a whole the piece
01:50
works to recognize the American West as
01:52
a landscape scattered with human
01:54
development rather than an untouched
01:56
natural environment another photographer
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in the show Frank okie watches on to
02:00
this new understanding of a human
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affected environment with similar
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deadpan aesthetics in particular both
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these images examine the growing
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isolation of the
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American West as a result of the
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automobile in landscape Los Angeles 1974
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bulky deconstructs the viewers
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conception of landscape by depicting an
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empty parking lot in the foreground with
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only a glimpse of nature in the
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mountainous background he uses the
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juxtaposition between the title and the
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subject to reposition the heroic nature
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photograph as a human construct
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altogether the shot feels hollow with
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centered framing lack of human presence
02:34
and unassuming lighting the image in
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views the empty parking lot with a
02:39
distance emotional tone through the
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picture goalkeeper vibes a pessimistic
02:43
view of the modern interaction between
02:45
humans and nature he channels his
02:47
frustration with a car reliant isolated
02:49
culture into a single well crafted image
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so I by side these pieces reveal certain
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trademarks of the new topographic and
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aesthetic they move from a celebration
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of nature to a critique of humanity’s
03:01
desire for expansion at the same time
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the images create a sense of despair in
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their subjects through straight on
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angles center framing and blank lighting
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the new topographic show ultimately
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marked the pivot in the photographic
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depiction of nature the photographer’s
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established a new way of looking at and
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capturing landscapes through irony
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deadpan humor and a straight-shooting
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aesthetic their images reflected the
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constant collision between non-human and
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human environments although the
03:27
celebration of the natural through
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images continues to exist and indeed is
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necessary for the causes of conservation
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the landscapes of the new topographic
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photographers give a much-needed nod to
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the larger environmental agenda of the
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1970s they brought to the photographic
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image the notion that nature exists in
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all places not just the wild but also
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the urban rural and suburban where
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people lived
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[Music]
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