Museum of Contemporary Photography Exhibit: Taxonomy of a Landscape


Nothing so pastoral and bucolic in nature would challenge this exhibit unless it were actual pastures being plowed into the museum, trees springing from legions creating an air thick with pastels that with each shade are inhaling and exhaling a changing season.

The photos that Victoria Sambunaris creates are so buoyant they can stop you in your stride and captivate your heart, fluttering. The most prominent quality of Sambunaris’ work is the use– and celebration– of color and texture. So much depth and realism, she challenges society to look at the earth– at it’s beauty or the mundane– and finds a melancholic angle that stabs like a dagger into those whose minds are open to the underlying message.jesus

With limitations in regards to her camera equipment, using a complex five-by-seven wooden field camera and sheets of color negative film, she transcends richness that not even the fanciest of modern camera’s and lenses could convey.

Victoria Sambunaris received her MFA from Yale University in ’99. Each year, she goes on a photographic journey across the American landscape. She is a recipient of the 2010 Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer’s Fellowship and the 2010 Anonymous Was a Woman Award.

The photos are often dark and dichotomous to their locations, often portraying bits of sadness and truth in those lost towns in the middle of America, and the dream long forgotten when the land first came to be. Her work is brave and irreverent, but without being intrusive or overbearing. She reveals just enough to relay the message without trying to be cryptic or misleading.

Her exhibit is a reminder to the public that it is not the camera, nor the moment caught, not even the point of view or time of the day– it is the eye which beholds the scape that makes a photograph an experience. The talent is in details, the small bursts of motion perpetuates a reaction unique to the photographer in experience, but accessible to the audience for it is all about interpretation.


As she claims: “It is the anomalies of an ordinary landscape that have become the locus of my work: massive warehousing, infinite distribution facilities, and systematized shipping terminals. These numerous paradigmatic structures, I sense, portend the future of landscape and our relationship to it.”


Yet there is so much to be fulfilled in the vacancy of a piece like Untitled with workers, Jacumba, California), 2010.

Just in plain sight is a car in the distance, an object perhaps meant to be a place to lay your eyes upon while the surrounding desert and small thirsting pools of water slowly trickle down into your line of vision, leaving a void that would leave anyone else with an urge to fill… but it is in the simplicity and desolation that the most complex stories are hidden.

Untitled (Farm with workers, Jacumba, California), 2010. (right)

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