Much of their aesthetic derived from their decision to abandon the flexibility of 35mm cameras for old, bulky, large-film cameras, which prompts a series of detachments. Slower and more awkward to set up, large-format cameras also turn the world upside down when you peer through the back. Then the photographers carefully aligned everything with the grid — a fundamental Modernist compositional tool — on the camera's ground glass.
This formal, conceptually-driven deadpan style persists in Lucas Foglia's 2011 shot of a couple guys drinking beer on the snowy Wyoming scrub and Jesse Burke's reconsiderations of manliness via photos from the past decade of topless guys outdoors.
Underlying a lot of New Topographics work was a study of transformation of the Western landscape into suburban real estate. This tactic suffuses the work of artists who have adapted the style to environmental purposes, like Emmet Gowin's 1989 study of the swirling pattern of toxic water aeration ponds. Then there's Doug Rickard's found Google Street View photo of three young black men crossing a desolate Detroit street — blurry peeping Tom surveillance turned into the ultimate document without author or art.
But Howard mainly focuses on photos of America's mythic, stereotypical wide-open deserts and mountains of the West — and, in more recent pictures, their development as suburbs. What's striking is these photographers' notion of the land in these decades since the rise of the environmental movement. They depict nature with few people and nearly no animals. It's a strange way to consider the landscape — seemingly abandoned and desolate. It's the world without us.
: Museum And Gallery
, Ansel Adams