The Napa Valley as a Manufactured Landscape

There is something about manufactured landscapes that I find disturbingly compelling. They are usually striking, often beautiful, and – more often than not – toxic. Almost no matter what was there before; it was healthier before the transformation. Two of my favorite photographers often shoot manufactured landscapes. Edward Burtynsky often – actually, usually – shoots beautiful photographs of awful places:


Richard Misrach rarely shoots a pure landscape, usually his landscapes show the impact left by man. 


One of his latest series is (are?) huge – like 60" x 60" – pictures of people on a beach. 


In the mid-60's, there was a movie, Blowup, about a photographer in which the opening scene was all about admiring gorgeous pictures of homeless men. The point was to show the shallowness of the photographer; but it is what photographers try to do – take gorgeous or striking pictures. Pictures with with impact.

The Napa Valley is softer and less toxic than anything either of the masters might photograph; but it's wall to wall manufactured landscape qualifies as striking for me.

The valley floor is vineyards, as far as the eye can see. Punctuated by windmills operating in reverse – using power to move the wind. Protecting the vines from frost just like in the orange groves 50 years ago in Southern California.




In the background are the mountains (or hills if you prefer) kept at bay. Nature behind the trip wire.

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