Dan Holdsworth, review by Dawn Bothwell
Within the polished and high precision images of ‘Transmission: New Remote Earth Views’, the boundaries of photography and place blend into one new perspective.
Dan Holdsworth’s new series of images depict the great, glacial landscapes of the west coast of North America. He has worked with the United States Geological Survey database, collaborating with experts in geomorphology and airborne laser mapping. The resulting works take on the role of highly tuned maps, containing vast amounts of data about their environments. These ‘maps’ offer a snapshot of the formation of the landscape which we now see, and by their scientific nature, could provide an accurate future picture.
The selection from this series currently shown at the National Glass Center in Sunderland is taken from Salt Lake City, Grand Canyon and Yosemite Valley: sites famously captured in the past by photographers like Carleton Watkins, defining the genre of documentary landscape photography.
Watkins’ images of Yosemite inspired the great naturalist John Muir to visit the cavernous landscape, which he lived by and fought to preserve: founding the first protected natural site and the concept of the National Park.
For Muir, living in and truly knowing first hand the Yosemite Valley, it represented spiritual planes thriving with proof of creation, marvelling in the unpredictable wilderness and its gradual formation far beyond human scale. In stark contrast to the early images taken by Watkins in the 1860s, Holdsworth’s images show a new side of man’s modern relationship with nature.
Built using algorithms produced from aerial laser scans and containing millions upon millions of co-ordinate data, each of these images show the new sublime - the modern technological sublime. This transfer of power from nature to technology holds unthinkable potential. The undiscerning view of these images unearths a primary concern of the documentary genre, removing the photographer from site. They embrace modern technology’s style and adopt its indifferent gaze: flatly downward, scanning the terrain, recording its gradual transformation with astounding detail.
This removal looks back to that seen in the work of artists like Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, noted in the famous exhibition New Topographics, whose distanced photographic style was a mirror to the conscience of a rapidly changing society. The cool, sheen, rendered images in Transmission: New Remote Earth Views, take on a benign presence, echoing the formal concerns of the south-west ‘Light and Space’ artists of the nineteen-sixties. They inhabit a space and denote their own underlying ambition: revealing the unpredictable clauses of nature and the ever-expanding unknown of the realm of technology.
Transmission: New Remote Earth Views
The National Glass Center, Sunderland
31 May - 09 September
Open: 10am - 5pm, Mon - Sun