Katherine Wolkoff, Exploring Earth’s future environmental health
In “The Critical Zone”, Katherine Wolkoff presents landscape photographs that describe the geological, botanical and zoological markings visible in “the critical zone,” earth’s permeable layer which extends from the tops of the trees to the bottom of the ground water. Scientists argue that this zone – where rock, soil water and air meet – will characterize the future environmental health of the Earth.
Like a scientific researcher, Wolkoff travels to public lands throughout the United States to photograph the landscape of the critical zone. She uses a range of techniques from the 4×5 view camera to a flatbed scanner, utilizing subjective post-production techniques that expand the photography beyond science. The work in this show is notable that it is her first body of black and white photographs.
The elements collected for these photographs show millions of years of geologic change – from evidence of sliding glaciers to traces of disappeared oceans. Today, these places are being affected in new ways due to rising temperatures and the effects of climate change in our current epoch, the Anthropocene. Black sand is churned up by hurricanes, invasive insects consume trees, and icebergs melt in plain sight.
The photographs in “The Critical Zone” leave the viewer unsure about where they stand, the scale and point of view are vertiginous. It is also unclear what the future holds for the state of the natural world.