Copyright Michael Light, 2009 courtesy Radius Books and photo-eye
The aerial perspective and tight framing of Michael Light’s Bingham Mine / Garfield Stack introduces a vertigo similar to what I feel when riding the ski lifts in the Rockies. As I am carried over a ridge and momentarily suspended mid-air crossing a deep canyon to an apposing ridge, looking down I feel slightly unhinged and vertigo induced terror. Similarly, the wide angle perspective obtained from Light’s flying perch that is situated close enough to discern the details of buildings, trucks, roads, trees and boulders. But Light has tilted his lens up slightly enough to include a larger environmental context of rugged mountain terrain in which the activities are situated. The juxtaposition of the near ground with the far distance is a little unsettlingly, creating a vertigo effect.
Light takes us on a narrative journey from the Interstate Highway that cuts through the state of Utah, ascending into the mountains at the mammoth Bingham mine and then descending to the industrial processing facility and the location of the Garfield Stack. This copper mine is so extensive that it can be discerned from an orbit around our planet, but is also considered an example of how such endeavors can be managed in an attempt to find a balance between commerce and environment.
It is easy to become awed by the photographs of Light’s subject as it is to become alarmed at how a mine is causing the slow dwindling of a mountain for the sake of economics. Nevertheless, Light does not blatantly press an environmental agenda as he attempts to present his facts in a documentary style.
The large-scale images seemingly attempt to emulate the vast scale of Light’s subject. With the full bleed photographs spanning the two page spread resulting in the enormous size of the 16 ¼” x 20 ½” (410 x 520 mm) interior images, these sharply defined photographs are mesmerizing. The hardbound book has a lay-flat binding that provides easy viewing of some very impressive size images, and the fine duotone printing is a true delight to read and enjoy.
by Douglas Stockdale