Photos: Above a Western waste land

A photo collection of 67 Superfund sites shows landscapes vandalized by mines and nuclear plants.

  • Tooele Army Depot (North Area), Tooele, Utah, 1986

    David T. Hanson
  • Silver Bow Creek/Butte Area, Silver Bow/Deer Lodge Counties, Montana, 1986

    David T. Hanson
  • Mather Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 1985

    David T. Hanson
  • East Helena Smelter, East Helena, Montana, 1986

    David T. Hanson
  • Lincoln Park, Canon City, Colorado, 1986

    David T. Hanson
  • California Gulch, Leadville, Colorado, 1986

    David T. Hanson
  • Atlas Asbestos Mine, Fresno County, California, 1985

    David T. Hanson
  • Pacific Hide & Fur Recycling Co., Pocatello, Idaho, 1986

    David T. Hanson
  • American Lake Gardens, Tacoma, Washington, 1986

    David T. Hanson

 

In 1985, photographer David T. Hanson turned his lens on certain American landscapes: 67 of the 400 Superfund sites — areas contaminated by toxic waste — considered “highly hazardous” by the Environmental Protection Agency. His series of aerial photographs, published in their entirety for the first time, comprise the book Waste Land. Hanson’s camera intensifies the 67 sites, which range from nuclear plants to asbestos mines, by filling the frame with their sprawling shapes, sludges and scattered mechanical structures. They look as if they could stretch endlessly past the photographs’ edges. In the book’s foreword, Wendell Berry urges us not to see the images as beautiful. “What we can see in these vandalized and perhaps irreparable landscapes,” Berry writes, “we are obliged to understand as symbolic of what we cannot see: the steady seeping of poison into our world and our bodies.”

Waste Land, By David T. Hanson
176 pages, hardcover: $50
Taverner Press, 2018