Monday, November 22, 2010

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Architectural photography has never been so subversive as the life works of German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher. Through the early 1960s into the 1980s the Bechers acted as industrial tourist where most outsiders dare not venture. Starting in their home territory of East Germany, they endeavored to meticulously document industrial structures that were built for a specific purpose and would be demolished as soon as the use of the structure became unneeded or obsolete.

Later the Bechers began a series of long trips to America, traveling the industrial revolution heartlands (aka the Rustbelt and Appalachians). Using an architectural medium format camera with luxurious black and white plates, they captured factories, water towers, gas collectors, blast furnaces, coal tipples, mine shafts, and gasometer. While most people vacation to beaches, national parks and exotic locales, the Bechers packed up and flew to rural southwest Pennsylvania or the middle-of-no-where Georgia.

The Bechers were accused of being terrorists, chased, arrested and intimidated in many of the places they travelled. Being two Germans with a giant camera, lost in the hills of Appalachia looking for coal tipples "or whatever" made them quite suspicious to the locals. To be more inconspicuous they would wake up before dawn to be on location to shoot structures before people arrived to work, hopefully missing shift changes at the facilities. Not only did this provide even light, it allowed them to work without much fuss and eliminated extraneous details in the final image such as cars, animals and humans.

Books regarding the Bechers are not easy to come by and tend to be pricey. I would recommend checking them out at the library. You will not be disappointed with the images.

a few links:
Tate Papers

John Javins

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

History of Photography and Power Lines (Part 1)

by Alexandra Copley

‘One of the basic human requirements is the need to dwell, and of the central human acts is the act of inhabiting, of connecting ourselves, however temporarily, with a place on the planet which belongs to us, and to which we belong. This is not, especially in the tumultuous present, an easy act (as is attested by the uninhabitable no-places in cities everywhere), and it requires help: we need allies in inhabitation.
Fortunately, we have at hand many allies, if only we call on them; other upright objects, from towers to chimneys to columns and power lines, stand in for us in sympathetic imitation of our own upright stance.’ (Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows).

In a village in Uganda or a crowded street in Bangkok, even Looking up from a rickshaw in India one will see the same sight as a person driving their SUV in Ohio. Power lines are a contemporary fixture in our world. Their appeal is as inescapable as the lines themselves. The universal recognition of these lines and their symbol of connection between one and all can be seen throughout historical and contemporary photographic representation. Although associations by cultures and societies are as differed as the landscapes where the lines can be seen, visions of power lines here, there or anywhere are consistent and faithful.

These lines standing above trees and below skyscrapers are in all landscapes. From the villages of Africa to New York City, power lines surround people. Photographers choosing to document a landscape will find it difficult not to include them. While these lines represent different things to different cultures, their familiarly is irrefutable; as is their metaphorical and very real representation of life.

We can begin with the first photograph of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. This image was captured in 1826 through a window in his studio. Considering all the possibilities, it was a choice of Niépce to capture in an image what he saw everyday and what his personal landscape represented.

Louis Daguerre took the first daguerreotype photograph, Boulevard du Temple in 1838. The depth and clarity of this type of photographic process can be mesmerizing. Daguerre chose to photograph a familiar landscape similiar to Niépce. This vantage point draws the viewer into the world of the photographer.

After careful consideration one can take note of the composition of the lines of the image. Although the exposure was far too long for any of the bustling activity of the street to come into focus, the elements compelling the people to be moving along the streets are still prevalent. Forcing the viewer to again become more deeply inserted into the reality of Daguerre,The rows of trees and curve of the roadway are the best examples of leading lines in a landscape photograph. Also the rows of chimneys not only apply good compositional elements to the image, but also are indicators of the time and place. Once can view the trees neatly trimmed and well maintained, and visualize this neighborhood of 1838. As well, one can view the chimneys in the foreground, middle ground and background as indicators of a period of time when everyone used them daily to power their homes and feed themselves. Therefore the lack of power lines in this particular image seeks to allow the viewer to assume a position in time and the stage of technological advances of our world (or lack there of).

In the discussion of power lines a famous image of the renowned photographer Tina Moddotti comes to mind. ‘Telegraph Wires’ was taken in Mexico City in 1926. It symbolizes the movement of a country and it’s people into modernity. The lines are the heart of communication and the soul of technology. By simply looking upward and photographing what everyone on the street passed daily but failed to take notice of, she brings the beauty of the lines to our attention. Choosing to center the lines, she provides the viewer with a deliberate juxtaposition of object and sky, of ethereal and real. Her ability to turn a portion of the landscape that could be considered an eyesore into an artistic notion gives life to the lines that are already alive. She brings forth a connection by showing the connected. These lines are timeless and universally familiar.

With the prominence of the new topographics photography movement came another way of looking at modernity, connection, society and landscapes. Since 1975 "New Topographics" photographers such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Frank Gohlke, and Stephen Shore have influenced photographic practices regarding landscape around the world. Since the late 1950s they had been photographing various obsolete structures, mainly post-industrial carcasses or carcasses-to-be, in Europe and America. In doing so, they seemed to capture not only decay but also the life within it. Life through connection and the power lines which enable such a relationship. Sometimes deliberately, but most times not, these photographers captured images of power lines.

In the work of Robert Adams from his series on Colorado in the early 1970’s he studied the construction of new tract housing and land use in the American West. Although his work centered around the ‘new’ and ‘possibility’ it also had a grim feel to it signifying the end of that particular natural landscape. Therefore his photographs lacked any form of familiar life, humans, animals, even nature. Their stark and deliberate feel can leave the viewer questioning society and it’s motives. However, upon closer inspection one can see power lines in far the distance. They are the solitary signifier of life that remains in the desolate landscapes. They are a reminder of our universal connection.

Stephen Shore takes another approach to the idea of landscape. In his work he chooses to focus on the life of a society. Placing his photographs in time with vivid imagery. Capturing every nuance of a location specific to its current state. His images are a steady recollection of life. In them he usually includes people, animals, or cars, all symbolizing movement. Within his images are the inevitable presence of power lines. They are the life of society and represented as modern symbols of this connection.

Still another way of viewing our connections through power lines is through the destruction of them. Frank Golhke frequently documented that fraught relationship between people and place. His work reveals how people carve out their living spaces in the face of constant natural disruption. In his photographic series entitled ‘Aftermath: The Wichita Falls, Texas, Tornado 1979/1980’ he exposed the frailty of our human life and constructions in the wake of a powerful tornado. In the before images you can clearly see a study of contemporary landscapes and society. The after images tell a completely different story. They are the story of the strength of the winds and the death of communication. The power lines seen scattered across the landscapes in the before images have disappeared in the after images. So has any link with others outside of the immediate vicinity leaving the viewer with a sense of isolation amidst the chaos of destruction.

Today photographers like Edward Burtynsky have begun to document humanity’s impact on the landscape worldwide. His images of a post-communist, pre-industrialist China particularly indicate a shift among the relationship and communication of this country to the rest of the world. Increased production and exportation goes hand-in-hand with increased power lines. The ancient scenes one might imagine of peaceful, flowing, mountainous landscapes of Chinese rice fields have been replaced with industry, construction and production. In Burtynsky’s photographs one can again sense the life amid the death. Life in connection, communication, relationships through power lines and death in the destruction of the natural landscape.

The linking of people through power lines is undeniable. However the relationship to this access to power can differ dramatically. What may symbolize freedom and the ability to live a better life to someone in the U.S. might also mean resentment, anger and frustration at a lack of resources and corrupt officials in India. Therefore the power lines we see in America, India, China or Africa are the visual representations of this connection whether good or bad. These differing associations are relative to time and place, as the lines themselves will remind you anywhere you travel on this planet.

Monday, July 19, 2010

palm tree cell phone towers

Also known as stealth towers, these "trees" are some of the most fantastic sculptures that I have ever seen, what can I say? I love them! I am not alone in my admiration for these amazing objects, as some people are even playing a game, much like slug bug!

for the love of industrial imagery

Images of industrial scenery have been created since the industrial revolution, from drawings, prints, and paintings to photographs, artists and professionals have been captivated by the formal visual qualities to the economic relationships of the industry set before them. Some of our favorite photographers include:

Charles Sheeler's images from the Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Plant in 1927, Blast Furnace

Edward Burtynsky's Manufactured Landscapes, particularly his Bao Steel #2, from Shanghai in 2005

Last but not least is writer and photographer Brian Hayes dedication to the the subject of industrial landscapes and research on infrastructure, which includes the steel industry that both Sheeler and Burtynsky researched.

mapping images

tracing lines project

This album contains just a few images taken with and iPhone with the geographic location attached to each image. many mobile devices attach this information or you can purchase a separate device and sync the data to your images as you upload them to your computer.

While this is not quite the same as Mitch Epstein's project, What is American Power?, which collects comments on American power from an international audience and displays their location on an interactive map, the sentiments for linking data with the goegraphic reference are the same.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Project Expansion and Updates Coming Soon!

We are expanding the blog to include links to other artists and projects that are interested in the same imagery and infrastructure that the Tracing Lines Project embodies.

If you have something to share, please email us at

Saturday, February 20, 2010

project preview

Thank you to all of our project participants for sending in work, donating money and making the night a success. The project is still developing and this preview has allowed us to test a few things out, document the work in this stage and begin the preparations for the next stage of the project. Stay tuned for more informations and updates!

As of February 19, 2010, the project participants included:

Bonnie Agnew
Ryan Agnew
Laura Alexander
Matt Carissimi
Jason Clark
John Damen
Einar de la Torre
Anup Gampa
Sharon Hoch
Les Horn
Jonathan Johnson
Diana Markessinis
Carrie McIlwain
Kimberly McKinnis
Jeremy Oversier
Ufuk Bircan Ozkan
Steven Perlin
Ralph Prince
Robert Rutoed
Cory Ryan
Nadine Saylor
Eddie Sergi
Talia Shabtay
Cameron Sharp
Josh Springer
Hiromi Takizawa
Michael Tilenni
Jessi Walker
Brian Wallace
Josh Watson
Elizabeth Danielle Wilson

more project preview

flameworked glass by aimee sones

etched glass by laura alexander

installing the show with jessica larva:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

tracing lines project preview

Please join us February 19, 2010 for the project preview at 13 east tulane rd in Columbus. Images, and video of lines that cross the globe will be on display.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

tracing lines

copyright aimee sones 2009

copyright aimee sones 2009

a little background...

As an artist, I have been interested in these lines and other forms of infrastructure for quite a while! I began talking with friends over the years and realized that I am not the only person fascinated by the lines within the landscape and began to collaborate with other artists and collect images. Here are a few of my favorites! I have also begun to incorporate these lines into my other work, mainly in glass and video. You can view my other work at or email me, to chat about lines!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

lines from egypt

all egyptian images copyright jessica larva 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

more lines

copyright john javins 2009

copyright john javins 2009

copyright ralph prince 2009

copyright ralph prince 2009

copyright aimee sones 2009

copyright aimee sones 2009

copyright aimee sones 2009

copyright aimee sones 2009