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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The exhibition New Topographics. Photographs of Man-altered Landscape that took place at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, is perceived as having cast a shadow of turmoil over the photography of the man-made landscape produced in the decades following its aftermath. The 2009 reconstruction of the original exhibition (almost in its entirety), the reconstruction's subsequent international tour outside the United States (shown in the Netherlands in 2011), the appearance of publications such as Reframing the New Topographics in 2010 and the project Landschaft. Umwelt. Kultur. Über den transnationalen Einfluss der New Topographics held in 2015 at the Museum für Photographie in Brunswick, Germany, and the present issue of Depth of Field #7 centered around this theme, collectively represent only a small sampling of the appreciation this exhibition has received.[1] The aim of the article at hand is to examine the potential impact of the New Topographics on photography in the Netherlands.

Since the 1980s, there has clearly been an increase in landscape photography that focuses on the man-made aspects of the Netherlands. Nineteen projects of this kind were gathered in the traveling exhibition and book Nature as Artifice. New Dutch Landscape in Photography and Video Art of 2008. [2] In fact, in 2009, Nature as Artifice was shown at the George Eastman House, adjacent to the New Topographics exhibition, which had just been reconstructed from the museum's archives at this time. To discuss the impact of the New Topographics in the Netherlands within the framework of this article, I will limit myself to examining the Dutch photographic contributions to the Nature as Artifice exhibition, while at the same time trying to answer the question: Were the makers of these photo projects in any way influenced by the New Topographics?

Before addressing this matter, I will first go into several aspects of the Dutch landscape itself, as well as the country's strong tradition of landscape painting. Together, these two elements make the context of landscape photography in the Netherlands rather unique. Then I will examine the evolution of a new landscape photography, with photographers and their projects grouped according to characteristics previously encountered in the photography of the New Topographics. By defining similarities and differences between photographs from the New Topographics and Nature as Artifice, I will arrive at conclusions in response to my enquiry regarding whether the later exhibition was impacted in any way by the former. Finally, after providing examples of what photographers themselves have said concerning their own work in relation to this topic, I will summarize in what way(s) this impact occurred.