Statements

Forensic Landscapes

In forensics, the absence of something can signify its presence. As reported in the Times, the chemical stain left by a body’s amino acids will suppress plant growth for up to two years, allowing a kind of shadow to remain after the thing casting it is gone.

On maps, the edge of a place vanishes and reappears.  So do tracks, roads and the original names of things.   There are no indications as to actual habitation, climate, degree of violence or calm, or even whether the area is land or water.

But the land is marked heavy. It is dense chemically, visually, textually. This density of markings includes human bodies, geological timekeeping, stories told in bars, news archives, and EPA documents.

I make photographs at or near night, on foot, and within a 5-mile radius of Newark.

I make photographs of things that can always be found, and are always about to vanish.

But not easily.  And not just yet.

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Where It Falls

“Where it Falls” is a text fragment from the original survey of Newark, NJ in 1713.
The survey defines the boundaries of the area with 4 features:

a Black Cherry tree Markd with y Letters N on the one Side & E on the other

Chaines forty Three Links to a Dead Black oak Tree

four Hundered on five Chain or five Mile & five Chains along Markd Trees

a Black oak tree & a small Red oak Tree

and concludes with the dominant feature of the area, the Passaic River…

Where it falls into Pasayack River

Thence Continuing Down where it began.

When taken as a fragment, the text connotes, for me, notions of expectations and resolution, what paraprofessionals refer to as “outcomes,” and what Wallace Stevens called the angle of repose. Expectations can be summed as follows:

What is it reasonable to want? (for who?) What is it reasonable to expect?

It is worth noting that property transactions set in motion by eminent domain are supposed to make any salvage rights associated with the property non-transferable.

In 2004, someone I didn’t know called me and told me my house was coming down. Like many photographers, I had photographed homes, factories, and neighborhoods- contested sites from the lives of other people. Now I photographed my own house, contested.

Over the past 7 years I have been writing texts, in 12-foot high letters, on rooftops throughout Newark, NJ, and photographing them via helicopter. Initially, this was a solitary act, inspired by the conceptual function of eminent domain as instant blight, as well as by the widespread, false assumption by many Internet users that Google Earth functions in real time. I began with my own house, which I was about to lose. The set of rooftop texts are derived from interviews with people in affected neighborhoods, legal documents, signage both active and defunct, and classic and modern poetry.

In 2010, a friend called me and told me that Google Earth had updated their imagery for the Newark area. All the texts were visible online, some on houses no longer standing.

The lowest that a civilian helicopter can fly in dense urban areas is 400 feet. My intention is to explore whether this tool- of surveillance, occupation and other state usage-can be used in any other way. I don’t know if it can.

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