RIFT / FAULT
Rift/Fault is a photographic study of the shifting tectonic edges of the North American Continental Plate in California and Iceland. Rift refers to where the North American Plate meets the Eurasian Plate, along the Mid-Atlantic Rift in Iceland. Fault refers to the San Andreas Fault, where the North American and Pacific Plates meet in California.
Tectonic plates slide along the mantle of our earth, underneath our oceans, our land, our air. The plate edges are geologically active - they spread, move, erupt, and tremble. Their behavior is for the most part unpredictable, and wholly uncontainable. And while boundaries upon the land are often contested, politicized, and fought over, tectonic plate edges remain immune to any human influence. In this series I looked for the visual traces of these tectonic edges in the natural and built landscape, seeking to evoke a deeper awareness of the relationship between humans and our environment. The pairing of images, one from each tectonic plate edge, allows for a dialogue between the wild and the contained, the fertile and the barren, the geologic and the human. These dichotomies create a visual tension that questions the uneasy relationship between geologic force, and the limits of human intervention.
Evoking the ephemeral, the images portray the atmosphere heavy with geologic steam, laden with Southern Californian smog, or soft, as fog caresses and settles down into the earth. Sometimes a blinding sun creates a space where vision itself wants to shut down. A sharpness can startle, while a gentle luminosity can calm. Space is defined by emptiness as well as boundaries. The expanse of a black lava field hints at a distant volcanic eruption that buried even the smallest hint of living growth, and a barren salt field bears witness to tracks both human and man-made. The paired images invite speculation of narratives pertaining to geologic fact and how we choose to live within our environment. The surface of our earth, so marked and scarred, is itself a boundary between the unseen space below and the one upon which we inhabit. The edges of the fault are separated by thousands of miles over land and ocean. Despite the vastness of this in-between space, my portrayal of the edges quietly reminds us that the risk of geologic violence is close at hand, and that even as we bestow our own sort of violence upon our ecosystem we nonetheless also engage in efforts to intervene in the cycle of environmental devastation.
The Mid-Atlantic Rift in Iceland is characterized by splitting earth, steaming hot water, volcanic eruptions, and a young lava landscape almost devoid of trees. Ironically, the warming earth has been good for tree growth in Iceland, even as icebergs melt at a stunning rate – creating conditions favorable for dangerous volcanic eruptions. Iceland has long utilized the earth’s energy for geothermal power and my images portray both the pipes that carry steam for geothermal electricity, hot pools for bathing, volcanic remnants and excavations, dwellings, and the raw, empty landscape.
Compared to the dramatic tectonic landscape in Iceland, California provides few visible cues to the underlying volatility. Agriculture and land development have erased many of the visible traces of the fault itself, and the ordered built environment creates an illusion of control over the powerful geologic forces rumbling just below the surface. Here I photographed housing developments, wind turbines, earthquake monitors, and highways along the fault. When paired with the images of Iceland, where the forces under foot are dramatically evident, the duality reveals the fragility of our human lives. And while it is futile to expect that we have any power to interfere with the great geologic forces, there are many things we can do to improve the quality of our lives and our environment. We can impact climate change, we can make our air, water, and land more clean, and we should be using more wind and geothermal power. Our time on this planet may be short, but it does not need to be futile.