Disappointment and Crisis
Finally, what fundamentally brings together the work of American New Topographics in the 1970s and the work of the photographers of Mission photographique de la DATAR in the 1980s is their attitude with respect to the documentary tradition, in relation to the landscape tradition and finally facing the territory itself. An equation that led, on both sides of the Atlantic, to the opting for a topographic way. The topographic exploration of space was deliberately rooted in present time and was looking to avoid judgment as well as nostalgia. According to Britt Salvesen, photographs ‘reconcile beauty and ugliness, love and hatred, progress and degradation, and a host of other contradictions. They epitomize the paradox of indifference in being both boring and interesting.’ Her analysis undoubtedly also applies to the work of the European photographers. The neutral position of the photographer invites the beholder to get involved. In front of this seeming visual inventory, the latter has the responsibility to produce his own analysis. If environmental issues are present, none of the photographs underline attacks on landscapes. The photographers’ commitment takes the form of a statement without using visual effects. Nevertheless, through their ‘topographical style’, the landscape crisis becomes more visible.