David T. Hanson's photographs of the coal-mining town of Colstrip, Montana, and the ruined landscape around it were exhibited by John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1986. The work signaled a shift in American landscape photography, away from the cool modernism
of the New Topographics. One of Hanson's aerial views of a waste pond looked like "a second-generation Abstract Expressionist canvas painted in acid," wrote New York Times critic Vicki Goldberg. The interaction of humans and their technology
with nature is a subject that has been of particular interest to American artists and is inseparable from our shared heritage in the taming of the wilderness. The historian Leo Marx referred to this theme as "the machine in the garden
." In Colstrip, Montana, the process is seen at its endpoint. The machine has ravaged, even consumed, the garden. The photographs reveal an entire pattern of terrain transformed by men to serve their needs. Individual images from the...