New Topographics

A reprising of the pivotal New Topographics exhibition will be on view at the Center for Creative Photography February 19 to May 16, 2010. Co-organized by former CCP Director, Dr. Britt Salvesen, and the curator of photographs at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography, Dr. Alison Nordström, this exhibition will include a selection of more than 100 works from the original show, as well as some 30 prints and books by other relevant artists to better understand the historical significance of these photographs and the continued relevance of this work in today’s culture.

Originally held at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, in January 1975, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape was one of those rare exhibitions that effect a permanent change in the development of an art form. The show brought together ten contemporary photographers who collectively defined the emergence of a new approach to landscape: Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore and Henry Wessel, Jr. These artists engaged with their medium and its history in different ways, while simultaneously dealing with issues such as environmentalism, capitalism, and national identity. Signaling the emergence of a new approach to landscape, the show effectively gave a name to a movement or style.

While references to New Topographics—the exhibition and the style—abound in photographic practices, exhibitions, and histories, the show’s initial reception and subsequent effects have yet to be carefully analyzed. The influence of New Topographics can be best understood by looking again at the original pictures and the circumstances in which the 10 artists were brought together. At the core of this re-examination will be the works from the 1975 show, curated by William Jenkins in collaboration with the artists. "By revisiting the photographs, we can assess their cumulative effect and consider their impact as objects," says Salvesen. "This reprise also provides a unique opportunity to assess the original exhibition’s aims, consider its influence on young photographers today, and examine the international implications of an American impulse in photography."

New Topographics will be of special interest to regional visitors: images of the Southwest—including some pictures of Tucson—are represented by many of the participating artists, including Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, John Schott, and Henry Wessel, Jr. Gohlke also teaches in the University of Arizona’s photography department. Additionally, CCP’s presentation of New Topographics includes selections from the Center’s archives representing relevant artists, including recently acquired works by Deal, to provide additional historical and contemporary context.

Already exhibited at George Eastman House and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New Topographics will continue to travel to several national and international exhibition spaces including: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (July 17 – October 3, 2010); Landesgalerie, Linz, Austria (November 10, 2010 – January 9 2011); Die Photographische Sammlung Stiftung Kultur, Cologne, Germany (January 20 – March 28, 2011); the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (June 25 – September 11, 2011); and Museum of Fine Arts, Bilbao, Spain (October 17, 2011 – January 8, 2012).

The new presentation and international tour of New Topographics is made possible by a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. An accompanying catalogue published by Steidl, George Eastman House, and CCP offers a broad-based view of the photography world in the mid-1970s. It includes a primary essay by Salvesen tracing the prevailing cultural and aesthetic ideas that gave rise to the exhibition, as well as the interconnections between the participants. Also featured is an essay by Nordström outlining the significance of New Topographics in Eastman House’s history and influence on photographic history to date.

Release date: 
Friday, January 29, 2010
Press release: