Over the course of the mid to late 20th century, photographers set out to document the rapidly shifting makeup of America’s expanse. Lewis Baltz was one of the foremost artists to capture the landscape and architecture in an amazingly austere, yet moving way. He passed away this week at age 69 of a long-term illness.
Baltz gained recognition in the 1970’s as one of the so-called New Topographics, a group of landscape photographers who looked beyond mere natural beauty to document man-made structures and their collision with the natural environment, especially in the West.
When I first came across Baltz’s work as a student at the San Francisco Art Institute, his own alma mater, it was truly stirring, as I saw so many connections to the types of things I gravitated toward as a photographer. The way he used geometry and light to extract incredible beauty out of mundane surroundings was an inspiration.
You can see the influence of Baltz all over the place in today’s documentary photography. There is even a whole Tumblr blog called New Topographics, that showcases images made in the mould that Baltz and others helped forge. Rest in peace.