Mobile Homes, Jefferson County, Colo., 1973, by American photographer Robert Adams

New Topographics

We picked the theme Topographics for our first issue as a tribute to the influential 1975 group exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a man-altered landscape, at the International Museum of Photography in New York. The exhibition heralded an exciting new movement whose influence is still felt today.

The exhibition involved the work of eight young American photographers — Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore and Henry Wessel. They were connected by a common interest in the landscape of the American West, but an interest that diverged dramatically from more traditional landscape work of photographers such as Ansel Adams. Where Adams portrayed a land eternally untouched by man, the New Topographics photographers sought to show the effect of urban expansion and decay on the same areas, turning suburban scenes into painterly landscapes.

While touching on important issues of the day, the photographers avoided any clear social critique, all the while maintaining a moral ambiguity but elevating simple images of dereliction or mundanity into art objects by focusing on the aesthetic beauty of the sun-drenched terrain.

The influence of the movement can be seen in some of last year’s most exciting publications: Gregory Halpern’s ZZYZX and Ron Jude’s Lago are just two examples of work that would not exist without it.

For an in-depth discussion of the 1975 exhibition (worth the effort!), click here.

See some of Robert Adams’ work here.

This short article is written by Itamar Mor, student photographer at Cambridge University and co-editor of this year’s SIX SEVEN.