counterforce lab: academics > landscape photography and energy 

desma 173 winter 2020

landscape photography and energy
desma 173 – special topics in visual communication and image / instructor: yogan muller / ta: erin cooney

course focus
were we turning to a physicist for a definition, we would get the following answer: energy promotes the transformation of our environment.

more specifically, energy allows us to refrigerate and heats our food, keep our houses warm or cool, it propels our cars, buses, airplanes or trains, it transports our brand new clothes, devices as well as the raw materials we need to build our roads and towns. in other words, energy is what our modern world heavily hinges on.

arguably, the urban landscape of los angeles is the direct result of energy consumption. from the 1950s onwards, oil has been key in the transformation of large tracts of “undeveloped” land into the seamless urban landscape we know now. readily available resources of oil boosted the urban transformation of the los angeles basin. oil is still central in the sustenance of the tremendous urban reality we have built for ourselves and our corresponding affluent lifestyle.

landscape photographers knowingly turned their lenses to those manifestations. and despite their oftentimes reluctance–that they overtly expressed in books and interviews, they kept on photographing our rapidly changing landscape. thus, it is as if the very process that made a whole wild world disappear under asphalt, concrete and smog was yet creating new lines of photographic inquiry. indeed, it did create plenty. this bitter-sweet expression of simultaneous loss and gain epitomizes a contemporary sense of the sublime.

we are going to investigate the impact of energy on the landscape of los angeles. how does energy manifest itself in the landscape? how can we render its manifestation visually? what stories and histories are associated with energy in the los angeles basin? sites of energy production are of interest as well as offshoot industries. we will also be looking at the avenues of energy depletion and at the fringes of the urban realm.