It is immediately apparent that the landscape had been altered by human hands and machines. I expected to read that it was an art installation by, say, Michael Heizer. As the caption indicates, men/women and machines did create new structures in the landscape, but in service of road building to fracking sites.
My immediate thought when I scrolled through Dirt Meridian was that the images are very Nat Geo. This, I realized, was a bit pejorative, as if being a Nat Geo photographer is not the fabulous opportunity and honor that it is or that the magazine is not the sumptuous presentation of the planet and its people that it is.
My Nat Geo thought flows more from my tendency to favor work that is overtly poetic or conceptual, where I have to puzzle out what a sequence of images is about and why they are sequenced the way they are. I also like work that pokes around at things unseemly. This sequence of images is not any of that to me.
But oh my, this is gorgeous work and it tells a story about a landscape and the people who live on it that is worth reading.
There are any number of images in the series that stood out to me. The one above was the first to claim my extra attention (they all claimed my attention). It is immediately apparent that the landscape had been altered by human hands and machines. I expected to read that it was an art installation by, say, Michael Heizer. As the caption indicates, men/women and machines did create new structures in the landscape, but in service of road building to fracking sites.
There is a quiet and beautiful dignity in the series, both in the people and the landscape. You get the sense that people and geography are both holding their own.
If I have a reservation about the series, it circles back to my Nat Geo reaction, which I now recognize the basis of. The Nat Geo I am familiar with goes back to my childhood. It reliably offered sumptuous photography and stories about exotic places around the planet and beyond. Everything looked beautiful, regardless of the subject material.
In this series, we don't get any sense of the full impact of fracking, for example. It is hinted at, but not really explored. It lies out there, lurking behind the scenes. And if you have lived long enough, you know there is more grit to the stories of the people and landscapes in the photographs than the photographs are letting you in on. The images have been made by a photographer who clearly has love and respect for his subject material. I fall in love through his pictures, which is an achievement. But, as in the opening sequence of Blue Velvet, which takes you quickly into the primordial muck that lies beneath the too perfect surface of suburban America, I find myself too jaded to accept that the dignified beauty is all there is to these people and the landscape they inhabit.