War is the dirtiest business in the world and the United States is the planet’s most prolific and chronic polluter. Decades and generations after armed conflict ends, civilian populations live amid war's residue. Rarely is the American military held accountable. It dumps, it discharges and returns home, leaving someone else - Iraq, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam - to clean up the mess.
The situation within the United States is much the same. We live in a constant state of war's aftermath with vast stretches of the American landscape contaminated by the business of war and armed aggression: unexploded ordnance, toxic chemicals, depleted uranium, radioactive particles, a filthy legacy stretching from World War II to contemporary wars of democracy. Scratch a cancer cluster or dive into a superfund site and the likelihood is that the US military played a role. Some of the history is known -" the down winders in the atomic west for example "but a great deal more is obscured, covered up, artfully redefined, with the lasting impacts of environmental pollution rarely connected to armed conflict and the American war economy.
Acknowledgment of Danger looks at this toxic legacy and continued environmental impact of US military activities on the American landscape from native lands to national forests, from major rivers to the skies above. It examines how life continues or is absent from these sites, how people mark them, memorialize them, and try to reclaim or erase them.
This work was funded with a grant from the Aftermath Project and published in Topic.
Harvard Art Museum
Group Exhibition: Devour the Land: War and American Landscape Photography since 1970
September 17, 2021 - January 16, 2022
Susquehanna Art Museum
Group Exhibition: War is Only Half the Story
October 12, 2019 - January 19, 2020
Monroe Gallery of Photography
Group Exhibition: Living in History
July 5 - September 22, 2019
Santa Fe, New Mexico