Depth of Field, volume 7, no. 1 (December 2015)Maartje van den Heuvel: New ‘Masters’ of Dutch Landscape. Photographs of the Most Man-Made Land in the World

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Similarities

So to return to our initial enquiries: do the photographs of Nature as Artifice look like those in New Topographics? George Eastman House's curator Alison Nordström's argument for a combination was that the man-altered aspect, which the New Topographics had pointed out as an element in the landscape, had been pushed to its extreme – not only in the focus of the Dutch landscape photography, but also in the landscape of the Netherlands itself: 'All of the world will have to deal with the phenomenon that our environment is increasingly man-managed. In the Netherlands, artificiality is nature. Holland is the archetypical artificial land – it is the world's future.'[40]

The similarities between the photographs from the New Topographics and Nature as Artifice lie in the subjects and the formalistic composition of shapes and lines on the two-dimensional surface. Photographers from both New Topographics as well as those from Nature as Artifice chose to photograph especially the urbanized and industrialized, as well as the infrastructure for travel and transport, which prior to this time were considered as 'non-places'. An anti-monumentality in the matter choice of subject occurred precisely because banal, vulgar and ordinary elements and buildings were taken as subjects in the images, e.g. motels, gas stations, traffic signs, highways, glasshouses, and electricity pylons. At the same time, both photographs from the New Topographics as from Nature as Artifice reveal a preference for geometric shapes, grids and open compositions; the composition does not repeat or emphasize the frame that locks onto the scene, making it closed, as was often the habit in landscape painting. Instead, the photographs have shapes and lines that seem to continue on for an indefinite distance outside the frame, thereby opening the composition, with the photograph then appearing to be a small part of a more extensive structure. It is these characteristics, which had already been introduced in early twentieth-century Russian Constructivist and German Bauhaus photography, that make it 'late modernist' photography.