Born in 1945, the American Lewis Baltz is an influential photographer and member of the group that began the New Topographic Movement. Born in California he studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, graduating in 1969. He is perhaps best known for his work in the New Topographic movement of the mid to late seventies which saw a shift from the traditional natural landscape to urban, human altered landscapes that captured dereliction, change and suburbia. At times his work can be considered critical of the developments in society and suburbia, capturing desolate areas designed for use while also giving an ironic view on contemporary American society.
Throughout his career he produced many books and exhibitions looking at and documenting the developments and changes of the American west, and more specifically the industrial landscape in his work ‘The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California’ that is now considered to be an informal trilogy consisting of further work ‘Park City’ and ‘San Quentin’ which looks at the process of landscapes changing from being just that to real estate for development, building sites and then industrial units. Between 1980 and 84 Baltz worked on an inspiring project called ‘Candlestick Point’ which focused on a landscape in south San Francisco which had been nearly entirely effected my modernisation and development that left it without almost no natural reference.
He has since moved to Paris where he has and continues to teach at the European Graduate School as a professor of photography.
This first image of Baltz is from his highly acclaimed work on Candlestick Point, the Landscape showing industrial activity on the horizon and human and industrial waste and rubbish in the foreground separated by a river. The New Topographic formal composition is apparent in this image, the controlled lines of the horizon and within the foreground in the river edges that reflect the work of Andreas Gursky who was inspired by the movement.
This quintessential Baltz image is a very strong and typical New Topographic image from his early work, the closed composition focusing on the strong elements that are given depth and interest by the curving deep shadow contrasting to the lighter central area of the image impact strongly on me, the lines all pull you to the top left corner of the image where the shadow is at is most interesting.