Jaeger’s Projection: New Landscape Photography

Phyllis Crowley

March 28—April 26, 1997

In 1867 Gustav Jaeger, the zoologist and Director of the Vienna Zoo, created a map by projecting the three dimensional globe onto two dimensional paper in the shape of a star with eight points. His purpose was to increase communication between Europe and America by finding the optimum routes for telegraph lines.

These eight landscape photographers, like Jaeger, translated their perception of the land onto a two dimensional surface, and saw their experience of nature (and photography) as intimately connected with culture and communication.

American landscape photography has traditionally concerned itself with an exploration and celebration of the natural world, often seen as untouched by humanity. But landscape is not part of the phenomenological world; it is a human concept, and embodies the changing ideologies and meanings that we ascribe to it. Many contemporary artists understand that we can no longer experience nature as separate from ourselves, as it is a product of culture, and we are part of it.

This exhibit showed landscape as a creation of the mind. The photographers were not merely observing through the camera lens, but also actively participating; they felt the need to abandon the straight approach for a new aesthetic in order to compose, craft, and fabricate the image. These artists often had a fine art background and combine traditional techniques of art and photography.

What new meanings and experiences do we find in our landscapes today?