PDN Photo of the Day

The Recession’s Aftermath in the California Desert

Anthony Hernandez’s series “Discarded,” on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth until August 7, pictures the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008, focusing on traces of abandoned development east of Los Angeles in the California desert. The images record the high water mark left by the of flood money that came and went in the area, where water itself is a precious commodity and a marker of wealth. In the wake of the recession, both money and water dried up, and Hernandez’s photos are full of the effects of the lack of both—there are decapitated trunks of palm trees, trucked in and left for dead, and expanses of barren dirt that stretch to the horizon, marked by a few fence posts, or the shell of a spec house. Writes John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs at the Amon Carter, in an introduction to a book that accompanies the exhibition, published by Nazraeli Press, “Where through the 1970s and 1980s the “New Topographics” generation led by Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz drew photographic attention to the expansion of suburbia across the open West, Anthony Hernandez now asks us to take account of the failures, the pulling back from over-exuberant expectation.”

Rather than focusing solely on the landscape, Hernandez also looks for signs of individual lives affected by what happened in the desert—signs of discarded people. He records sun-bleached 1980s photos of a boy and girl, still in a gold frame, contrasting their hopeful expressions with a portrait of a disheveled man in a torn sweatshirt, posed in the doorway of the school bus he seems to live in. Writes Rohrbach, “These photographs point out our penchant to discard what we no longer want, can afford, or find useful. In their strange beauty, they cajole us into pondering what led to these landscapes of neglect, to add people and activity to the mix.”

Related Stories:
The Great Recession: Foreclosure USA
Brian Ulrich: On Creating, Funding and Sustaining a Long-term Fine-Art Project (for PDN subscribers; login required)

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