Tag Archives: landscape

Election 2012: The White House Landscape Artists

6 Nov

In honor of the upcoming election, here’s a bit of trivia:::

The grounds at the White House in Washington, D.C., were designed by Calvert Vaux and Andrew Jackson Downing.  While Downing was American, Vaux was British.  After Downing was killed in a steamboat accident (I kid you not), Vaux went on to work with Frederick Law Olmsted.  Together they designed Central Park and Morningside Park in Manhattan and Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  Is it any wonder that he cited the Transcendentalist author of “Nature,” Ralph Waldo Emerson, as one of his influences?

I took a group Church Hopping to the Church of the Intercession in Washington Heights, part of New York City, where Calvert Vaux was commissioned to to do landscape work on the cemetery grounds.  You can read about it here.

Road Trip with Kevin Russ

23 Aug

I stumbled down the rabbit hole of the Internet into some incredible road-trip photography by Kevin Russ, via Miss Moss. Looking at his photographs of grazing buffalo and wild horses that can’t be broken is like looking into the great American West of the past—and yet his photographs were taken with an iphone.

Kevin Russ’ photographs, wild and natural, rustic and warm, capture a moment that could be any moment in time. Massive mountains and deep gorges speak to the untamed beauty of the American landscape—the type of view that makes you pull over on the side of the road, speechless. You feel small. Not insignificant, but no longer the center of the universe. Your perch in the corner office becomes a little less important. Your eyes readjust. You begin to see.

The photographs have such a timeless quality to them even though there are signs of modern-day life in some of them. There are no people in the photographs that Miss Moss featured, and yet the contemporary traveler is present. There’s the lone yellow school bus traveling in the distance. Mundane-looking cars parked by a corral. The camper on the side of the road. A pastoral home, with what appears to be a kerosene lamp. Teepees. Yellow stripes dashing down grey pavement.

What’s interesting about the absence of people in the photographs is that Russ is actually an amazing portrait photographer. I liked his road-trip work so much that I did a bit of digging around on the Internet and found more of his photos on CameraLuv. He shoots hipsters with envy-inducing haircuts in front of abandoned tires, layers of newspapers, beat-up vans, and industrial fences. Is it any surprise he’s based in Portland?

So then I found his Flickr page and discovered he’s done photography for Radiant, a publication that has published my writing.

I want to languish all day on his Tumblr.

Seeing Kevin Russ’ photography makes me kind of wonder what it would’ve been like if iphones were around when the poets and writers of the Beat Generation were crisscrossing the United States. Allen Ginsberg was the itinerant photographer of the group, capturing hipster friends Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, and the like on their travels.