Places of Power
Shadow on Face of Hoover Dam
How did Places of Power come about. What is the story you wanted
to tell about that?
The early power plant pictures that I made starting in 1987 and
subsequent visits to these power plants, which I had unlimited access
to in the Midwest. At the same time, I was still photographing traditional
landscapes and increasingly these ancient Anasazi sites. I then
set about photographing the Hoover Dam. Walking into the dam, I
was overwhelmed with the scope, not just of the exterior, but the
interior spaces that made up what, at the time, was the single largest
piece of concrete on the face of the Earth. It was an exciting experience.
Shortly afterwards, I started questioning myself: "What's going
on here?" I'm photographing power plants and Anasazi sites, yet
I still love photographing the landscape. I realized that what appealed
to me from the ancient Anasazi dwellings to these miraculous sculptures
of steam turbines was the monumental scale, magnitude and function.
Also, I had always wanted my landscape photographs to be timeless.
So, I was looking back literally a thousand years to these stone
masonry structures of the Anasazi. And now I was up to the 1930's
with Hoover Dam. The power plants represented 1950's, 1960's technology.
In my mind I needed a symbol of today's technology, and I realized
that what I wanted to photograph was the Space Shuttle.And so that's
where Places of Power came into being.
What's the difference between photographing something manmade
and pure landscape? Do you need different equipment? Do you need
a different aesthetic sensibility?
Having photographed the landscape for a number of years and specifically
working with trees and in the forest I found, without consciously
thinking about it, that it was a great learning experience for me
in terms of organizing elements. The first day at the power plant
I found myself photographing some steam vents on the roof of the
structure. And I remember consciously thinking that they were just
like trees but they were metal. And the camera position, the organization,
looking for repeating forms, shapes, trying to set up a visual rhythm
seemed to come very natural. All of a sudden I was in a forest of
aluminum and steel rather than a forest that we might think of in
a traditional sense. So to me it's very similar in terms of trying
to distill within the image, those elements that are gonna form,
hopefully, a compelling visual statement.