SG J #421, Inkjet print, 169x127cm, 2008

Stained Ground

On distinguishing light and darkness

 

When I encountered an abandoned factory in the northern outskirts of Seoul in 2005, its huge monolith looked both seductive and ominous. This strange landscape, neither fit for human use nor for nature itself, was the raw face of civilization. I began to record industrial landscapes (sites such as fossil fuel diggings and raw material processing plants) in South Korea, Japan, and the United States. I encountered over 500 factories and industrial sites – some abandoned decades ago and nonexistent on maps, some running without interruption for years, and some newly built. I documented the trajectory of light in the path of human survival, witnessing how humans transform nature and nature conditions humans.

 

The camera’s ability to accumulate time is a key element of my work.  These photographs were taken through long exposures at night, from as short as 30 minutes to as long as 8 hours. Daylight illuminates evenly – under sunlight, an abandoned mining factory in Blair, Nevada or an oil refinery in operation in Galveston Island, Texas may look similar. However, the light of the evening changes everything. Only what we want to see emit light whereas darkness covers that which we don’t. By eliminating boundaries, the long exposure enables my work to show how the abandoned and illuminated landscapes are actually connected.