Lewis Baltz (September 12, 1945 – November 22, 2014) was a visual artist and photographer who became an important figure in the New Topographics movement of the late 1970s. His work is focused on searching for beauty in desolation and destruction. Baltz’s images describe the architecture of the human landscape: offices, factories and parking lots. His pictures are the reflection of control, power, and influenced by and over human beings.
Approach to Photography
For me a work of art is something to think about rather than something to look at.
Photography starts with a world that is overfull. The photograph tries to sort it out. What is the camera looking at and why?
The new topographics
In 1974 he captured the anonymity and the relationships between inhabitation, settlement and anonymity in The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California (1974).
Discussing his photographs of Park City 1978-79 Baltz says ‘I want my work to be neutral and free from aesthetic and ideological posturing..’ But his photographs are far from being emotionally barren….convey sadness, disappointment, and anger at how we have used the landscape..It becomes hard to distinguish construction from destruction'(Jurovics in Foster-Ricxe and Rohrbach pp6-7)
‘No one wanted to confront the new homogenised environment that was being built – people pretended not to see it. I was looking for the things that were most unremarkable, and wanted to present them in as unremarkable way as possible to ‘appear objective’ and not show point of view.’ Though obviously not objective.
Interested in the effect of the place. What kind of people or new world would come out of it.
Interest in marginalised, things that reminded us of mortality. Wastelands.
His books and exhibitions, his “topographic work”, such as The New Industrial Parks, Nevada, San Quentin Point, Candlestick Point (84 photographs documenting a public space near Candlestick Park, ruined by natural detritus and human intervention), expose the crisis of technology and define both objectivity and the role of the artist in photographs.
Baltz moved to Europe in the late 1980s and started to use large colored prints. 1989 started to think of much more direct ways of being social. He published several books of his work including Geschichten von Verlangen und Macht, with Slavica Perkovic (Scalo, 1986). Other photographic series, including Sites of Technology (1989–92), depict the clinical, pristine interiors of hi-tech industries and government research centres, principally in France and Japan.
Baltz died on November 22, 2014 at the age of 69 following a long illness.