Mine / Stack / Vertigo

[Image: Michael Light, Bingham Pit photograph mounted and on display].

A beautiful new book of photographs by Guggenheim Fellow Michael Light has been released. Called Michael Light: Bingham Mine/Garfield Stack, and released by Radius Books, it includes an essay by “experimental geographer” Trevor Paglen.

[Image: Two photos from Michael Light: Bingham Mine/Garfield Stack].

Light, well known for, among other things, his aerial photographs of the American west, “pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, human impact on the land, and various aspects of geologic time and the sublime,” as Radius Books describes it, has put together a collection of 22 images from his surveys of the Bingham Pit and the Garfield smelter stack.

The sheer scale of each site—one a void excavated into the surface of the earth, the other one of the tallest structures in the United States—is mind-blowing:

Located at 8,000 feet in the Oquirrh Mountains—20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City—the Bingham Canyon copper mine is the largest man-made excavation on the planet. Its hole reaches more than half a mile deep and its rim is nearly three miles in width. It has produced more copper than any mine in history.

[Image: Michael Light, “Garfield Stack, Oquirrh Mountains and Ancient Beach of Great Salt Lake” (2006)].


The mine’s Garfield smelter stack, situated at the edge of the Great Salt Lake about 10 miles away, is the tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River, and is only 35 feet shorter than the Empire State Building.

In a nearly 9-page interview with Afterimage, Light comments:

I work with big subjects and grand issues, and I am fascinated about that point where humans begin to become inconsequential and realize their smallness in relation to the vastness that is out there. In my archival work I also enjoy inserting a certain kind of revisionist politics into big iconic subjects that are owned by the world, where I can tell a story through my particular prism, in a way that hopefully offers a fresh perspective.

This is part of his ongoing interest in taking apart “the fundamental building blocks of landscape perception and representation.”

The book is available through Radius.

One thought on “Mine / Stack / Vertigo”

  1. I saw this on my first cross-country flight recently, could see its shadow from the plane, and I had no clue what it was. Fascinating…

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