Our latest installment of Ctrl+P features the work of Joshua Dudley Greer. Greer uses a view camera to photograph the ruins of a once monumental military-industrial complex as it recedes into the surrounding landscape of forest and swamps. Greer (b.1980) received his BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2002 and his MFA, with distinction, from the University of Georgia in 2009. His photographs have appeared in The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Volume 2, Flash Forward 2010, Smithsonian Magazine and Le Monde. He has received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, Tennessee Arts Commission and in 2012 was named one of the New Superstars of Southern Art by Oxford American. He is currently living in Johnson City, Tennessee where he is a visiting assistant professor of photography at East Tennessee State University.
The West Virginia Ordnance Works (WVOW) was an explosives manufacturing facility constructed during World War II just outside Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Occupying 8,000 acres along the eastern bank of the Ohio River, the WVOW was built specifically for the production and storage of trinitrotoluene (TNT). At its peak, nearly 500,000 pounds of TNT were produced here each day and stored in a massive array of concrete igloos. The site was officially declared surplus and closed in 1945, after which time much of the land was deeded to the state of West Virginia for the creation of the McClintic State Wildlife Management Area.
A large system of ponds and wetlands was constructed as a habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds and other wildlife species. This area came to be known simply as T.N.T. and developed into a popular hangout for local youth, hunters and fishermen. In the early 1980’s, EPA and state investigations revealed that the groundwater, soil and surface water of T.N.T. were heavily contaminated with explosive nitroaromatic compounds including TNT, trinitrobenzene, and dinitrotoluene, as well as arsenic, lead, beryllium and asbestos. The site was placed on the EPA’s National Priority List in 1983 and extensive cleanup efforts began in 1991. While a large portion of the original facility has been remediated, many of the toxic and explosive contaminants were simply buried on site. The remnants of the WVOW facility survive as relics to our nation’s violent history, while the re-purposed landscape hides much of its true nature just beneath the surface.
The site that remains outside Point Pleasant is a haunting place of beauty, mystery and violence. Using an 8×10 view camera, I am photographing the ruins of a once monumental military-industrial complex as it tangles with the surrounding landscape of forest, fields and swamp. While certain structures offer a glimpse of what has transpired on this site, many of my photographs refer indirectly to violence and environmental neglect through metaphor. The repetition of specific imagery is intended to create a labyrinth of sorts where certain motifs are experienced over and over. The interplay of visibility and invisibility that runs throughout these images alludes to the way in which we commonly misperceive both contamination and beauty through strictly visual means. TNT storage igloos are depicted in a serial typology to convey the massive scale of contemporary weapons production, while the emptiness of the landscape, photographed with a muted palette and diffused light, is meant to evoke a kind of post-apocalyptic environment – one that is at times bleak and somber, yet also strangely resilient and beautiful.
Ctrl+P: Photography taken offline is an exciting venture at Catherine Edelman Gallery inspired by the hundreds of photographs we see on blogs and online galleries. Started in January 2011, CEG introduces Chicagoans to new artists we find while searching the web, exhibiting a small selection of one person’s work every two months, taking the pictures offline and putting them on the wall. It is our goal that Ctrl+P will provide further exposure for these photographers away from the glow of a computer monitor and without the temptation to click to the next link. We hope you will join us by unplugging from the internet and visiting CEG to see these photographs the way they were intended — in print.