Magazine article The World and I

Virginia Beahan, Laura McPhee : Extraordinary Land

Magazine article The World and I

Virginia Beahan, Laura McPhee : Extraordinary Land

Article excerpt

In our busy modern world, we seldom take enough time to appreciate the beauty and mystery of the land upon which we live. Occasionally, we slow down to get glimpses of the all-encompassing landscape, but only for a moment. However, thanks to a sparkling collection of photographs by Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee in No Ordinary Land: Encounters in a Changing Environment (Aperture, 1998), such visual neglect is easily remedied.

From children in Iceland playing in a hot springs, created by the runoff of a geothermal pumping station, to an artificial volcano in Las Vegas "erupting" every twenty minutes, Beahan and McPhee's stunning images catalog the seemingly endless ways in which people interact with the natural environment. In approaches ranging from the surreal to the ultrarealistic, the photographers capture the parade of paradoxes inherent in the social landscape around the globe.

"We have been interested in the intersection between nature and culture--the ways in which people alter the land and how the land itself influences what people do in it," notes Beahan, who began her artistic collaboration with McPhee in 1987. "The relationship is complex, so a photograph like The Blue Lagoon can be about human imagination, practical necessity, recreation, and pleasure." Complex indeed, with the Icelandic pumping station providing not only hot water for residents of Reykjavik but a warm bathing pool for children and healing mineral waters for adults.

But Beahan and McPhee's photography goes beyond just how the natural world shapes--and is shaped by--human behavior. …

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