For more than a decade Victoria Sambunaris (American, born 1964) has traversed the United States equipped with a five-by-seven wooden field camera and sheets of color negative film. Covering nearly every valley and road, she has captured the vast American landscape and terrain, and its intersection with civilization. Sambunaris has said that she has “an unrelenting curiosity of wanting to understand the American landscape and our place in it.” While humans are in awe of the power of nature, we are also energetic and domineering diggers, builders, and settlers. Sambunaris’s photographs thus strikingly record our ongoing, uneasy relationship with the natural world.
Through straight-on focus, detail, and uniform lighting, Sambunaris shifts her diverse subject matter—from trains in Nebraska and Texas and trucks in New Jersey and Wisconsin to the oil pipeline in Alaska, uranium tailings in Utah, and steam vents in Yellowstone National Park—into crisp, clear images of forms in neutral space. Her photographs convey at once the grandeur of the American landscape and the subtle, yet sometimes overwhelming, cues to the country’s capitalist mentality. As she explains, “It is the anomalies of an ordinary landscape that have become the focus of my work: massive warehousing, infinite distribution facilities, and systematized shipping terminals. These numerous paradigmatic structures, I sense, portend the future of landscape and our relationship to it.”