David Ottenstein

Artist Statement

Whether I’m photographing in remote farmland, a forested national park, or a small town, I consider myself an observer of the landscape – the natural, the built and the somewhere in between. I think about all three in the same way. I’m not partial to one over the other. My observations, and the images which record them, reflect my curiosity about the landscape. Why does it look the way it does? What has shaped it? How do light and happenstance allow us to read, interpret and attempt to comprehend it? Sometimes, my photographs depict an inhabited landscape, often not. Either way, the pictures are about how we and the landscape interact. My photographs address the human imprint on the land. In subtle, fading tire ruts traced through the desert, or the sprawl of urban development on the plains stretching out from distant mountains, or the decomposing frame of a farmhouse on the edge of a corn field on rolling hills in Iowa. In some of my most recent work, I’ve been looking at small towns struggling to sustain themselves, sometimes holding their own against forces that are shifting the balance between thriving urban centers and small rural communities, and sometimes failing to remain viable. My intent is not to judge – neither to condemn nor to celebrate – but to point out, to say, “take a look at this.” I hope to impart to the viewer a sense of what I felt and experienced when I first encountered my subject.


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