Exploring the intersection of the built and natural world

Rift: Unearthing the Deep Divide Along the San Andreas Fault (2022 - in process)

In Rift: Unearthing the Deep Divide Along the San Andreas Fault, I use the landscape as a metaphor for the political division and social tribalism that are so prevalent in our culture today. The seismically active San Andreas Fault cuts an 800-mile-long path through the state of California. This fissure is a geologic split between two opposing tectonic plates and represents an ideologic line that people are either on one side of or the other. Photographing directly on the fault line, I make landscape images that speak to the rifts in society.

In contrast to the abundance of California’s natural beauty, destructive earthquakes are a persistent threat to the state’s 40 million residents. This uncertainty symbolically parallels the risk of social schisms in our communities. We are a culture of diverse individuals, yet we are becoming more polarized. While a variety of viewpoints have always existed in societies, social media (which is predominately headquartered in California) has brought those divisive opinions to the forefront and they now dominate the narrative.

The San Andreas Fault is not always a straight line or visible on the ground's surface; it is more nuanced and often lies deep beneath the façade of various visually striking landscapes. The rocks along the fault line are a mèlange of different types and origins. They are often transported across the globe, then accreted and transformed onto the North American continent as tectonic plates grind past each other — akin to society's once glorified melting pot. The fault is directly responsible for California's dramatic terrains. If diverse beauty can be found on a fault line that has existed for 30 million years, maybe our society can find a workable solution for its fractures.

For this project, I am using an infrared camera which captures light beyond our visible spectrum; I want to show that one’s viewpoint is not the only way of seeing. The resulting images are a bit otherworldly and are emblematic of the rapid changes to our society. The underlying gold palette is a nod to California’s nickname of “the golden state” (a moniker mainly attributed to the 1849 Gold Rush.)

I have traveled the length of the fault many times and relish the solitude of being on the road. Nature provides me respite and I find meaning in the built-world’s interaction with the land. For me, finding landscapes that stand-in as metaphors for cultural division is a balm from the vilifying rhetoric of TV and social media.