The American Landscape Photographers Who Focused on the Environment in the ’70s

Frank Gohlke, “Landscape, Albuquerque” (1974), gelatin silver print (photo courtesy Cantor Arts Center)

STANFORD, Calif. — The 1970s are sometimes called the “environmental decade,” due to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the enaction of major environmental legislation, and the increase in awareness of ecological issues such as ozone depletion, the harms of DDT, and acid rain. The spirit of the times also made a considerable impression on the field of landscape photography, most memorably catalogued in New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, a modest but influential 1975 exhibition at the George Eastman Museum.

The 10 participating artists represented trends that prioritized commonplace landscapes—tract homes, motels, dilapidated buildings—over sublime and romantic depictions of nature. Though there were precedents for these artists, including Eugène Atget, Robert Frank, and Ed Ruscha, by the 1970s a unique style

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