Book Review: Wilderness to Wasteland by David T. Hanson
Image Above: ©David T. Hanson, 'Yankee Doodle tailings pond, Butte Area Superfund site, Butte, Montana,' (1986) / Courtesy of Taverner Press
Image Above: ©David T. Hanson, 'East edge of Atomic City, Idaho' (1986) / Courtesy of Taverner Press
David T. Hanson's Wilderness to Wasteland is a photobook of works taken from both the air and ground of hazardous waste sites throughout the United States. It includes an extensive range of subject matter and scenery for the sake of spreading Hanson’s message: that industrial sites are poisoning our environment. Some of these sites include a prison in Florida, chemical plants in Georgia, abandoned mines throughout the West, aerospace corporations in California and Arizona, and the poisonous Yankee Doodle tailings pond in Butte, Montana. By pairing exquisite photographs of the indigenous environment with those of Superfund sites, Hanson is able to connect these sites in relation to their social environment. The American people can reflect on their country's landscape, and see the damage that these sites have caused.
Image Above: ©David T. Hanson, 'Tooele Army Depot, Superfund site, Tooele, Utah,' (1986) / Courtesy of Taverner Press
Atomic City is just one example of the many locations within the United States that Hanson includes in his series. Using photographs taken in the middle of the 1980s, Hanson is able to seize images of the results caused by mining production, and the toxic environment they leave behind. The destruction caused by these corporations will be what the American people remember of industrialized society. Through his artwork, Hanson is clearly explaining that when future generations think of industry, they will not think of great works such as Stonehenge, but of the devastation and toxic waste that technology and industry leave behind.
Image Above: ©David T. Hanson, 'Fackrell’s Texaco Store & Bar, Atomic City, Idaho,' (1986) / Courtesy of Taverner Press
While shooting, Hanson thought of these photographs as a testament for the conclusion of the twentieth century. Hanson said, “Even as these photographs are an investigation into our contemporary American landscape and the ways we live now, they are also an exploration of the problems involved in representing the landscape of the late 20th century, of mapping out our social reality.” By looking at and analyzing how severely the American landscape has been altered over the past century or so, he is starting to show us the new landscape that we have created and now occupy. The photographic images give the American people a demonstration on how our landscape has been transformed over the years and how it has lost much of its quality because of it. Hanson is showing us the negative side to progress and is launching a thorough examination into the relationship between nature and culture, the real and the classical, order and deterioration.