PDN Photo of the Day

Photographing the Volatile Edges of a Continent

It is easy to forget that the North American Plate, the massive rock slab on which most of our continent sits, is moving. The powerful forces that shaped the tectonic plate’s eastern and western borders—and continue to change them—are the invisible subject of Marion Belanger’s series “Rift/Fault,” shot in Iceland and on the West Coast. Belanger photographed the Plate’s eastern boundary along the Atlantic Rift, where the North Atlantic Plate meets the Eurasian Plate, and on the western edge, where the North American Plate meets the Pacific Plate along California’s San Andreas Fault. In Iceland, the two plate edges are pulling apart, creating a raw, dramatic landscape, defined by volcanos, while on the western edge, the plates are scraping against each other and the landscape is smooth, rounded by time. In both places, Belanger shows how everyday life goes on despite the massive forces at work – houses are packed onto a hillside south of San Francisco, awaiting the next big one, and scattered across bright grass in Heimaey, Iceland, the site of a 1973 volcano.

Rift/Fault – Landscape Photographs of the North American Continental Plate,” a show of Belanger’s work on view at Haverford College until December 6, pairs work from each side of the Plate, combining the violent Icelandic landscape with deceptively peaceful California topographies. Cool, milky light falls on the suburban houses and infrastructure of both, making their unseen connection visible and showing their linked fate. 

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