“We had dreamed of building cities, fields of glittering towers, urban fantasies meant to house our hopes of progress; now we seek our dismantled landscapes, abandoned, collapsing on themselves. Rather than creating the next utopia, we uncover the vestiges of failed attempts, the evidence of obliteration” (Maisel, 2013: 124).
This is a very poetic way to describe the impact humanity has been having on our planet over the course of the past centuries. These images portray the impacts of the industrial pollution in the Owens Valley, California. The bright colours we see are the consequences of many decades of mining silver, lead and zinc in the valley and the subsequent diversion of the Owens river to supply drinking water to the city of Los Angeles. This fateful move resulted in the lake going completely dry and the emergence of toxic dust storms harming the health of local residents.
The art once again acts as a channel to inform, inspire and call to action. I am grateful to my MA Photography programme at Falmouth University for making me aware of the work of this wonderful photographer. David Maisel received his BA from Princeton University in 1984 and MFA from California College of the Arts in 2006. He was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts in 2018. David Maisel’s work can be seen in the Metropolitain Museum of Arts, LACMA and the V&A. His latest book can be ordered via: David Maisel (2013) Black Maps.
The Lake Project 15, 2002. (c) David Maisel
David Maisel (2013) Black Maps. American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime. Steidl