[Image: Untitled (Uranium tailings); Mexican Hat, UT, 2005, by Victoria Sambunaris, from Taxonomy of a Landscape].
Design writer Sarah Rich has posted some really spectacular images by photographer Victoria Sambunaris, along with a short Q&A discussing landscapes altered by human activities and industry.
Truck yards butt up against uranium disposal cells and open pit mines yawn over the horizon from border fences that stretch like continuous monuments through the desert.
[Image: Untitled (talc mine benches); Cameron, MT, 2009, by Victoria Sambunaris, from Taxonomy of a Landscape].
Sambunaris is, in Rich’s words, “a 21st-century documentarian of human presence in the American landscape… a kind of mapmaker, displaying the layers of material and the layout of space that compose a particular geographic region.”
[Image: Untitled (Houses); Wendover, UT, 2007, by Victoria Sambunaris, from Taxonomy of a Landscape].
These layers include infrastructure and housing, but also—and, in some ways, more interestingly—the subtle traces of invisible legislative superstructures that come to define the scenes in question.
For example, Sambunaris’s shot of Yellowstone National Park—which you can see in the original interview—betrays human meddling on a different scale altogether, precisely through its absence of any visible interference. That is, the landscape depicted in Sambunaris’s photo has, in fact, been artificially scrubbed clean of all human traces by an unseen scaffolding of political regulation—its declaration and protection as a National Park—making even this a kind of altered landscape, an arranged scenography planned and implemented from afar by human beings.