The aerial photographs of David Maisel might seduce the eye with their beautiful strangeness before one realizes their darker implications: these are open-pit mines, toxic landscapes. The images from the Terminal Mirage series (all taken around the Great Salt Lake) appear especially abstract. When gazing at these images, how do we orient ourselves in terms of scale? Are the brilliant colors the result of human intervention, or the rich intensity of natural minerals, or some combination of the two? Maisel calls such landscapes “the contemplative gardens of our time.” His photographs are both captivating and unsettling, inviting us to reflect on who we are as humans and as a society, and to consider how we grasp such a complex and frightening beauty, how we turn it in our hearts and minds.
David Maisel’s photographs in this issue of Orion are from Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, a new monograph from Steidl Publishers.
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