According to experts, the planet is now in a geologic period called the Anthropocene in which human action will progressively alter the course of life on Earth and the systems that support it. Every year global temperatures rise, and the frequency and severity of natural disasters increase. All evidence points to these trends continuing. “Climate change” is the name given to this predicament, and it poses a threat of existential proportion. For the past two years, I have been photographing the landscape of the northeastern United States looking for symbols of change. I have explored areas impacted by natural disasters, land displaced by various kinds of development projects, and other sights and settings where the harsh influence of the human hand is undeniable. I have employed key themes and motifs, based on research into both historical and contemporary landscape photographic practice, to document our relationship to the land as it shifts. Overwhelming and intrusive artificial light, monoliths of earthen substance destined to disappear or be reshaped, and flora and fauna that are being unnaturally controlled or cultivated—all feature prominently within my work. And always I come back to the land, to the appearance of troubling emerging vistas, both physical and spiritual in nature, that foretell greater transformations to come. The work I have made is an attempt to bridge our own moment to this uncertain future, to create a space of witnessing and contemplation amid profound disturbance.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Photography, Artistic--Themes, motives; Nature--Effect of human beings on--Pictorial works; Environmental degradation in art; Global warming in art

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Photography and Related Media (MFA)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (CAD)


Joshua Thorson

Advisor/Committee Member

Angela Kelly


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes