Eruption, 2019

Inkjet print

Dimensions: 42" x 40"

Image courtesy of the artist

Brooks Dierdorff

Orlando, Florida

In my work I explore the ways that photography shapes our ideas of nature, climate disasters, and environmental collapse. Transforming found photographs of the natural world into collages, sculptures, video, and installations, I address our understanding of our present environmental circumstances through the latent potential of images collected from the past. I believe that the photographs that we make are cultural inscriptions that can be read to better understand who we are and what we are doing.

The imagery in my most recent series, Already Always, appropriates, edits, and recombines images of natural disasters from the photographic archive of the United States Geological Survey, an institution that played a historically significant role in shaping, through photographs, the mythology of an unexplored American landscape. Paradoxically, images of natural disasters like these and others such as melting glaciers, tropical storms, and scorched deserts have been so broadly disseminated that we are visually immune. Most images of nature have become empty signifiers yet are nonetheless ever-present in daily life. This numbness to images is the catalyst for my work. My photo-based work often takes the form of sculpture or installation, staging unexpected encounters with photographs that push against the interpretation of a photograph as an objective document to be passively received.

What are the consequences of experiencing nature through images and fixed representations? My work investigates this question by making the means of representation transparent. In heightening a viewer’s attention to the process of viewing as well as physically navigating these images within the gallery environment, the past contexts from which these images are sourced are shifted into the present. At a time when images are increasingly becoming detached from the contexts in which they were created, I feel it a crucial and necessary act to draw attention to the context within which images are seen, and the visible and invisible structures that support their viewing. At its core, my work investigates the photograph’s role in perceiving and interacting with the world around us.