Lewis Baltz, Three Photographs from the Series “Park City”, (1980)
While Lewis Baltz is perhaps best known for his New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California series, Park City might be a better candidate as the magnum opus of the artist’s early work. Not merely representative of the stylistic and conceptual framework of the photographic movement he helped to define, Park City is the single most exhaustive and far-reaching visual criticism of 1970s-era American real estate development: the series is thus the New Topographics document par excellence. The series’ 102 plates (Baltz defines the Series as “a sequential work of 102 elements”) first take the viewer through overall site views that set up a jarring contrast between the mountains (already carved up for the ski area) and the freshly built condominiums and houses that soon will take over the landscape.
Each of these innocuous looking homes has been declared unfit for habitation. They are on State of Oregon’s list of known, former drug labs. None of them appears to have a single sinister board in their frame, which is all the more frightening. Maybe these are the before photos.
Oregon publishes a register of these houses on the internet. It even encourages citizens to receive email update to the list is added to. The promotion is kind of odd. It’s kind of like the opposite of a National Register listing. It is a register of shame.
Landmarking a building can be a catalyst for development and community action. Maybe the list of drug labs could be used the same way. With the right marketing and incentives could a negative listing become a positive for communities?