Text by Britt Salvesen, Alison Nordström.
Steidl & Partners,
256 pp., Illustrated throughout, 11¾x9½".
Now in its second printing.
The New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape was one of those rare
exhibitions that permanently alters how an art form is perceived. Held at the
International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York, in January 1975, it was
curated byWilliam Jenkins, who brought together ten contemporary photographers:
Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas
Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore and HenryWessel, Jr. Signaling the emergence of a
new approach to landscape, the show effectively gave a name to a movement or style,
although even today, the term “New Topographics”—more a conceptual gist than a
precise adjective—is used to characterize the work of artists not yet born when the
exhibition was held. Although the exhibit’s ambitions were hardly so grand, New
Topographics has since come to be understood as marking a paradigm shift, for the
show occurred just as photography ceased to be an isolated, self-defined practice and
took its place within the contemporary art world. Arguably the last traditionally photographic
style, New Topographics was also the first Photoconceptual style. In different
ways, the artists thoughtfully engaged with their medium and its history, while
simultaneously absorbing such issues as environmentalism, capitalism and national
identity. In this vital reassessment of the genre, essays by Britt Salvesen and Alison
Nordström accompany illustrations of selected works from the 1975 exhibition, with
installation views and contextual comparisons, to demonstrate both the historical significance
of New Topographics and its continued relevance today. The book also
includes an illustrated checklist of the 1975 exhibition and an extensive bibliography.