The Limits of Preservation

[Images: From Minescape by Brett Van Ort].

The Minescape project by Los Angeles-based photographer Brett Van Ort looks at the ironic effects of landmines on the preservation of natural landscapes, placing woods, meadows, and even remote country roads off-limits, fatally tainted terrains given back to animals and vegetation.

[Images: From Minescape by Brett Van Ort].

“Left over munitions and landmines from the wars in the early 1990s still litter the countryside in Bosnia,” Van Ort explains.

According to BHMAC (the Mine Action Committee for Bosnia and Herzegovina), just over 3.5% of the land area of the country is still contaminated by landmines. Many of the deminers in the field believe roughly 10% of the country can still be deemed a landmine area. They also feel that nowhere in the countryside is safe, as they may clear one area but a torrential downpour may unearth landmines upstream or upriver; consequently, these unearthed landmines find their way into vicinities that were deemed safe weeks, months or even years ago.

While visiting the landscapes himself, Van Ort adds, “some people told me not to walk into nature at all.”

[Images: From Minescape by Brett Van Ort].

The photographs seen here juxtapose shots of natural landscapes considered safe—that is, free of landmines—with portraits of the mines once buried there.

“The viewers of these photographs,” Van Ort suggests, “should ask themselves: which of these landscapes would they feel comfortable walking into?”

[Images: From Minescape by Brett Van Ort].

The project closes with a particularly dark observation: “I see the idea of hand-placed landmines protecting the natural setting and allowing the environment to regenerate itself as an ironic twist on our inability to conserve and see into the future.”

[Images: From Minescape by Brett Van Ort].

More photos from the series—including a taxonomy of artificial limbs necessitated by encounters with the landmines—are available on Van Ort‘s website.

(Thanks to Jon Rennie for the tip! See also the DMZ Peace Park Project).

6 thoughts on “The Limits of Preservation”

  1. Great project. But to the question of whether these landscapes are "safe," I'd respond that it's a relatively modern notion that humans would consider any wild, uncivilized landscape "safe." We're accustomed to seeing beautiful wilderness landscapes as places for our recreation, but our colonial ancestors saw these same scenes as life-threatening and satanic.

    So landmines have replaced lions and bears to re-introduce an element of risk in these places – which, I'd argue, makes them feel wilder than most wilderness areas. Daredevil adventure travelers seeking hunter-gatherer adrenaline rushes can't be far behind.

  2. Good project. I like the concept of man's lust for war actually benefitting nature, (for once). Bravo for such a brilliant concept

  3. Landmines had set Angkor Wat temples off-the-limits during its civil war – could that actually ironically preserved the temples during that wartime?

  4. Hello, I love bldgblog and I read it religiously. I was wondering whether you have heard of Apopo and their HeroRats? The rats are trained in both medical detection (Tuberculosis) but also in detecting landmines. They are light enough to explore possible mine-fields without setting them off.

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