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Into the Anthropocene - Oildale Oilfields
David Gardner

In 2016, those who determine such things officially agreed the Earth had entered a new Epoch in its evolutionary age. Termed the Anthropocene, it is defined as human–influenced, where our activity has caused irreversible changes to land, oceans, and air. This new earth age is the starting point for this body of work that explores vast human–altered landscapes. I am both concerned and curious how repercussions from our rapidly expanding world need for Agriculture, Energy, and Water, impact our planet.

I investigate places where the natural ecosystem has been altered or destroyed to provide for our burgeoning world population. One such place is represented here. Along the Kern River, near Bakersfield, California, the Oildale Oilfields contains three large fields, including two of the largest in California. For more than 120 years, drilling rigs have slowly expanded over the region as new fields were discovered and put into production.

As has been the case in each location I have visited, I was simultaneously dazzled and disturbed by the scope of these transformations. What was revealed I found compelling — strangely alien but completely human. By allowing human intervention to speak over the landscape itself in my images, I imagine a new landscape, more of its Age, that highlights the dilemmas faced when considering a balance between exploitation and preservation.

- David Gardner

This series won a Portfolio Award in the 2019 San Francisco Bay Photography Awards.

I live part–time in San Francisco and part–time in a 26 ft. Lazy Daze motorhome, christened Carpe Diem, pursuing my photographic interests across the continent. I am largely self–taught, but consider my longtime friendship with fine art photographer Stephen Johnson, and the likes of Richard Misrach and Edward Burtynsky to be the basis of my photographic inspiration and proficiency. I studied graphic arts and multimedia design at San Francisco State University, and attend classes and lectures at the San Francisco Art Institute as time permits. My photographs have been exhibited across the country and internationally.

Over the past 30 years, I have attempted to hone my vision to better reflect the essence of the landscape as I see it. During much of that time, my approach became quite contemplative, and resulting images more intimate and simple in design. My belief is that the true genius of nature lies in the subtlest of moments.

Recently I have shifted my emphasis, as the difficulty of isolating landscapes free of human intervention has increased. I not only include evidence of human impact, but also people, in the context of the landscape, now appear. I am looking more at how we use land and what we communicate through that use. In order to preserve what we have, I believe it is important to reveal what we are losing.

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