Reframing the New Topographics
Distributed for Columbia College Chicago Press
In 1975 the exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape crystallized a new view of the American West: the sublime “American” vistas of Ansel Adams were replaced and subverted by images of a landscape inundated with banal symbols of humanity. Organized by William Jenkins for the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, New Topographics showcased such photographers as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke. Their pictures, illustrating the vernacular, human-made world of contemporary America, punctured the myth of the pristine, wild American landscape—and definitively changed the course of landscape photography.
Reframing the New Topographics offers the first substantive analysis of this shift and the continuing influence of an exhibition that not only reshaped the look and subject matter of landscape photography, but also foreshadowed environmentalism’s expansion beyond the mere preservation of wilderness. The essays in this anthology will add an important new dimension to the studies of art history and visual culture.
"The appearance of New Topographics in 1975 forever changed our ideas about landscape photography. Reframing the New Topographics will change our ideas about New Topographics. We see the pictures anew and learn that their difficult and often deadpan confrontation of suburban sprawl and middle-class plenty belonged to a wider set of struggles that are still very much with us today. This is a heady ride back to the future."—Anthony W. Lee, Mount Holyoke College, founder and editor of the Defining Moments in American Photography series
“We have long needed a much larger framework for understanding the profound shift in thinking about the nature and culture of landscapes that occurred with the New Topographics. We finally have it with Reframing the New Topographics in which cultural mapping, systems theory, eco-criticism, film theory, the digital landscape, and more are all brought to bear. The resulting collection of essays not only illustrates the historical underpinnings of landscape photography during the latter-half of the twentieth century, but also where it may go in the twenty-first."—William Fox, co-author of Photography and Flight