Landscapes are central to our identities, yet our physical world often changes so gradually that its transformations rarely register in our consciousness. Only through snapshots in time can we witness the magnitude of landscape’s change and the dynamics of its manipulation and control. Unstable Ground pairs two complementary projects that visually reveal how dramatic landscape changes define our surroundings and challenge us to wrestle with the complex relationships between humanity and nature.
Nicholas Liu-Sontag '11 and Karen Kellogg, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Skidmore College, have juxtaposed early twentieth-century images of the Saratoga Lake watershed with contemporary views they photographed during a 2010 summer collaborative research project. By capturing nearly identical vantage points, they created vivid “then-and-now” contrasts. These paired images capture physical transitions in our local environment and also speak to the social and cultural intricacies often associated with landscape change.
Tensions concerning land ownership and accessibility, human manipulation and ecological resilience, and the significance of environmental stability provide rich subtexts for the more conspicuous aspects of the images.
Diane Burko’s Diptych — Grinnell North Moraine — also compares an early twentieth-century view with a contemporary image, but it records environmental change on a much larger scale, with more ruinous outcomes. The glacial retreat it depicts results from climate change, now altering landscapes and reshaping societies in nearly every corner of the world.