The aerial perspective and tight framing of the photographs in Michael Light's Bingham Mine / Garfield Stack introduces a vertigo similar to what I feel when riding the ski lifts in the Rockies. When carried over a ridge and momentarily suspended mid-air while crossing a deep canyon to an opposing ridge, in looking down I always feel slightly unhinged and there is a moment of vertigo-induced terror. Similarly, the wide angle perspective obtained from Light's flying perch—in this case a helicopter—situates the viewer close enough to discern the details of buildings, trucks, roads, trees and boulders. But Light has tilted his lens up just enough to include the horizon and a larger environmental context of rugged mountain terrain in which the mining activities are situated. The juxtaposition of the near ground with the far distance is quite unsettling, creating the aforementioned effect.
Light takes us on a narrative journey from the Interstate highway that cuts through the state of Utah, ascending into the mountains to the mammoth Bingham Mine and then descending to the industrial processing facility and the location of the Garfield Stack. The Bingham copper mine is the largest man made hole on the planet, and is so extensive that it can be discerned from outer space. It is also considered an example of how such endeavors can be managed in an attempt to find a balance between commerce and environment. [This last sentence doesn't really make sense. I don't know he is trying to say. And if he is saying it's an exemplary mine, creating a balance, he is wrong. It's not. I say just cut that sentence.]
It is easy to become awed by the subject matter itself, and just as easy to become alarmed at how a mine has caused the slow dwindling of a mountain for the sake of economics. Nevertheless, Light does not blatantly press an environmental agenda.
The large-scale images attempt to emulate the vast scale of Light's subject. The full bleed photographs span the two-page spread resulting in the enormous size of 16 1/4" x 20 1/2" (410 x 520 mm) for each of the images. At this size, these sharply delimited photographs are mesmerizing. The hardbound book has a lay-flat binding that provides easy viewing of some very impressive size images, and the fine duotone printing is a true delight to read and enjoy.
Douglas Stockdale is a photographer, author and writer when not working his day job. His photographic projects and stories explore questions from our dreams, experiences and memories. His first self-published book is In Passing and he recently completed his latest photo-project Insomnia: Hotel Noir. He is a photobook critic with his own photo-blog, The PhotoBook, available at www.thephotobook.wordpress.com. Douglas’s web site is www.douglasstockdale.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.