For most of my photographic life, my interest has been the landscape. I have journeyed extensively in my car throughout the northeast, down to the Rio Grande, through basin and range, across the western plains, down to the Salton Sea, into the Petrified Forrest, around the mines of Nevada. I have journeyed to Alaska venturing 500 miles on a gravel road, crossing the Arctic Circle and the Brooks Range to arrive in Prudhoe Bay; I have resided on an abandoned air force base on the salt flats of Utah with the Enola Gay hangar out my window; I have penetrated the obscure caverns snaking throughout the south and encircled the calderas of Hawaii mesmerized by the enormous cavity upon the earth taking particular interest in the vast transformation of the landscape. My work in search of subject matter has taken me on seemingly every road, parkway, thruway, highway, freeway and turnpike between the coasts and beyond as I traverse the American landscape.
As I drive, my mind’s eye scans the periphery of the road until it seizes upon phenomena that are ubiquitous and familiar to a particular region but are anomalies to an ordinary eye: massive distribution facilities, complex transport systems, colossal mining operations, infinite industrial expanse, majestic mountain gaps, exploding mud pots. My intent is to decontextualize the sites that I photograph by taking a neutral viewpoint, shedding judgment and transcending any obvious historical, symbolic or social meaning. As such I approach the subject in an exemplary manner, allowing viewers their own notions and meanings.
As a photographer, I originally developed my process for finding photographic content by getting lost on highways and freeways and chancing upon sites that would trigger unaccountably familiar responses. Whether pondering landscapes of human manipulation or geophysical occurrences, the particular issues of physicality that define our place here and now: scale, containment, space, light and compression have become the locus of my work. I am captivated by the idea of how we inhabit our landscapes as we forge ahead in our development. The suggestion of what fills our lives is somehow telling and strangely consoling. Over the years, each body of work has taken me further and further from my base in New York to discover and uncover places. Once there, I remain to experience and to explore the mystery of what a particular place contains.
Born in 1964, Sambunaris graduated from the Yale MFA program in 1999. Her work is held in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of Women in the Arts as well as the Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, which granted her a Foundation Fellowship in Marfa, Texas. Artist’s Gallery. website | www.yanceyrichardson.com