Artist’s Statement
Dan Lobdell

This project is about the landscape around rivers, especially those places where bridges and other human–made structures are found. These places are points of density, where complex local topographies emerge from the conflict and interplay of geologic, biologic, and economic forces. This conflict is a formative presence in the landscape and its visual manifestations have been the core subject of my work for the past fifteen years.

Cities and Architecture
Over the last two years I’ve been photographing late-19th and early-20th century building facades in Rust Belt cities such as Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. This work is part of a longer-term project dealing with the landscape of America’s industrial heartland. The buildings represent a range of architectural styles including Renaissance Revival, Beaux Arts, Art Deco, and early Modernist. They housed institutions and businesses during a period when the Rust Belt cities were at their height of economic and political power. More recently, these communities have struggled to deal with the effects of de-industrialization, diminishing populations, and general urban decline. I see this project as an investigation into how the buildings, in their stateliness and various degrees of disrepair, engage with the environment of this new urban reality.

During my travels through the upper Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, I’ve found significant differences in the conditions of the cities. While some, such as Detroit, have suffered a great deal due to the near collapse of a single industry (an industrial and economic mono-culture), others were able to develop new types of enterprises grounded in existing institutions such as hospitals and universities. Pittsburgh, a prime example of the latter, has a thriving downtown area with extensive outer neighborhoods that are stable and livable from a middle class perspective. However, most of the cities I’ve photographed fall between these two extremes, where multiple attempts at revitalization exist in near proximity to structures that are neglected and left to decay. It is this moment of instability and change in the human ecology of the old industrial city that I find most interesting. I believe that this is an important time to document these places, and that sensitive photographic description is a mode that meshes well with their current visual reality and with their long industrial, technological, and design histories. Ultimately, my goal is to create images that reveal the complexity and grace of the urban Rust Belt.