Published by Radius Books/Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University. Text by Geoff Manaugh, Tyler Green, William L. Fox, David Maisel, Katie Lee-Koven.
David Maiselís (born 1961) Proving Ground comprises aerial and on-site photographs made at Dugway Proving Ground, a classified military site covering nearly 800,000 acres in Utahís Great Salt Lake Desert. A primary mission of Dugway is to develop, test and implement chemical and biological weaponry and defense programs. After more than a decade of inquiry, Maisel was granted access to this facility in order to photograph the terrain, the testing facilities and other aspects of the site.
Maisel began by photographing at ground level, focusing on structures related to the testing of chemical warfare dispersal patterns. He then moved to an aerial perspective to create images that resemble large-scale minimalist drawings inscribed on the land. Maiselís work at Dugway also includes photographs of the newly minted WSLAT (Whole System Live Agent Test) facility, which is devoted to identification and neutralization of chemical and biological toxins that can be weaponized by terrorists or rogue nations.
Black Maps is the first in-depth survey of the major aerial projects by David Maisel, whose images of radically altered terrain have transformed the practice of contemporary landscape photography. In more than 100 photos that span Maisel's career, Black Maps presents a hallucinatory worldview encompassing both stark documentary and tragic metaphor, and exploring the relationship between nature and humanity today. Maisel's images of environmentally impacted sites consider the aesthetics of open pit mines, clear-cut forests, rampant urbanization and sprawl, and zones of water reclamation. These surreal and disquieting photos take us towards the margins of the unknown and as the Los Angeles Times has stated, argue for an expanded definition of beauty, one that bypasses glamour to encompass the damaged, the transmuted, the decomposed.