Academic journal article Afterimage

Landscapes of Industry

Academic journal article Afterimage

Landscapes of Industry

Article excerpt

Silver and Water

By Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio Optics Division

George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film

Rochester, New York

February 9-May 26, 2013

The Owens Valley outside of Los Angeles was once fertile farmland, until the needs of the city and the silver mining industry began to tap the resources of this region. Today what is left is an arid valley with a one-hundred-square-mile dry lakebed. The water transported from the Owens Valley and Owens Lake via aqueduct west to Los Angeles was vital to the development of the city and, by extension, the Hollywood film industry located there. Much of the silver mined here was loaded into shipping containers and moved by rail, boat, and truck east to Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, where it was used to make film. It is no surprise that the Hollywood film industry has long been one of the largest consumers of Kodak motion picture film. Thus the codependent relationship of these industrial innovations forever links these disparate places in the development of the United States and the visual culture it is known for.

Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio Optics Division take these basic historic connections and conceptually, metaphorically, and scientifically create a system for photographing the landscape that is a direct trace of the peak of these industrial acts. Their "Liminal Camera" is a large, mobile camera obscura and developing lab housed in a repurposed shipping container on the back of a truck. The images are made on wide rolls of black-and-white photographic paper, which are hung on the inside of one of the sides of the shipping container.

There are nineteen images on display in this exhibition at the George Eastman House (GEH) (measuring from roughly 40 x 70 inches to 40 x 145 inches), a short handmade film, and one large paper negative submerged in a large tray of water in the middle of the gallery. The pinhole-like images the camera records are soft, poetic, and dreamy panoramas that bring to mind an aesthetic from the past. The aesthetic is reminiscent of the landscapes of the American West made in the late 1800s by photographers such as Timothy O'Sullivan and William Henry Jackson, as the West was just beginning to be settled. However, any uncertainty the viewer might have as to the era of these images' creation is quickly settled as they notice the contemporary subjects occupying the bridges, buildings, pipelines, and skylines that dominate the compositions. …

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