Photography is a crucial part of environmental planning and design extending to contemporary culture such as site-based art. Through photographic investigations we can learn more about how to make better decisions about places, ecosystems, and communities.
Mohammad Azeem (itinerant hairdresser & guide) Sloee, Salt Range, Punjab Pakistan, January 2004 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram
Environmental planning and design are about people and where we live — and in particular decisions about space, resources, technologies, practices and ethics. There are aesthetic decisions inherent in virtually all of these types of interventions. A crucial dimension of environmental planning and design is communication and how possible solutions to environmental problems and conflicts are described and transmitted. And contemporary culture, including photography and site-based art, also comprise important vehicles for describing and responding to environmental problems, injustices, and conflicts as well as for envisioning possibilities and solutions.
Homomonumenten, Amsterdam 4 1995 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram
Photographic documentation, site-based art and other cultural fusions of studies and interventions have had important roles in transforming communities for a long time. Today, the lines are increasingly blurred between studying a place, such as through photographic documentation, and intervening to protect, transform, and reassess.
Tchintoulous garden workers, Aïr Mountains, Niger, October 1985 from the 1991 essay, Gardens of Despair: Tuareg responses to desertification, Aïr Mountains, Niger / Jardins De Désespoir: Réaction des Tuaregs devant l’expansion du désert, montagne de l’Aïr, Niger, Royal Institute of British Architects Gallery, London. 16 inches x 20 inches photography by Gordon Brent Ingram.
These pages record my three decades of photographic studies, as an environmental planner and activist, as well as portraits of individuals and social movement. Moving from my early education in landscape photography and social documentary, increasingly fused with more subjective inquiries, I have linked photographic-based work with site-based interventions that have sometimes included public art.
My initial photographic studies were well-grounded in North American landscape photography practices. The darkrooms where I studied at the San Francisco Art Institute were designed and initially managed by Ansel Adams. But by the time I became engaged making critical photo-essays on communities and environmental problems, the realm of ‘landscape’ had already shifted to more subjective treatments such as those of Robert Adams with his quiet 35 millimetre portrayals of the suburbs of the West. And figures like Allan Sekula were highlighting the nature of political economy and social contests in how communities were viewed and portrayed. Today, my work still straddles more oppositional forms of landscape photography, that delve into and even contest aspects of places rather than promote or glorify, and social documentary that acknowledges an inherent subjectivity and relationship to the ‘subject’.
Ruins of village of Tanuf (bombed by UK 1954-9), Hajar Mountains, Oman, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram January 2004
For me, public and other site-based proposals (as more aesthetically oriented aspects of environmental planning and design)are rooted in these visual, and specifically photographic, investigations. The photographing and the resulting essay are used to identify an intriguing and important set of (dynamic) relationships. The resulting visual record lays the basis, creates a richer language, for proposing some new possibilities that respond to and perhaps remedy aspects of the supposed ‘real’.
A number of longer photographic essays are also posted separately.
Recent work on green roofs as spaces for ecological renewal, public engagement, experimentation, and cultural exploration is posted at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/roof.
Work on the Sahel of West Africa is posted at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/sahel.
Work on text, imagery and public space in Rome is posted at
Two photoessays from the early 1980s, on the Edziza and Spatsizi Plateaus of north-western British Columbia are posted at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/stikine.
An essay on Vancouver Island’s Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway will be posted at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/eandn.
An early series of photographic investigations of landscape and culture in some ecological reserves in British Columbia will be posted at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/fragments.
Another essay essay, on shifting uses and subcultures in an urban park above San Francisco’s Castro Street will soon be posted at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/buenavistapark.
And there is a spot for a 1980 essay on the young Canadian composer, Rodney Sharman, that could be posted in cooperation with him at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/1980.
The other pages in this domain document related aspects of the work of Gordon Brent Ingram with
1. curriculum vitae at www.gordonbrentingram.ca ;
2. scholarship listed at http://www.gordonbrentingram.ca/scholarship;
3. various professional studies and other projects and related activism listed at http://www.gordonbrentingram.ca/studiesdesigns ; and
4. an informal studio blog at http://www.gordonbrentingram.ca/theterminalcity
late tulips, 16 May, 2008, Railtown Studios green roof, Vancouver
Gordon Brent INGRAM
321 Railway Street #108 Vancouver V6A 1A4 CANADA
Al Jabreen Islamic school from circa 1671 Hajar Mountains Oman, January 2004 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram
Much of this photographic work has been supported by a score of grants, over twenty-five years, from The Canada Council for the Arts.