Lucid exponent of the American New Topographics current in the 1970s, and constantly engaged in deconstructing the politics of places and representations, since his debut Lewis Baltz has combined his visual art with thoughtful critical - and self-critical - writings. The reflections gathered in this book offer various perspectives on his forty year career and the transatlantic context it developed in, with pieces that accompany the early topographical pieces, narratives embedded in the text-image works of the late 1980s, and a substantial series of essays devoted to some of the most important photographers and artists of the twentieth century. In the latter, attention to the enigmatic materiality of the works is combined with a cool, disenchanted critique of their cultural, and also political worth. In this vein there are essays dedicated to Walker Evans, Edward Weston, Robert Adams, Michael Schmidt, Allan Sekula, Thomas Ruff and Jeff Wall, which explore the potential and limits of modernist photography. The book also contains detailed appreciations of artists like Krzysztof Wodiczko, Félix González-Torres, Barry Le Va, Chris Burden, James Turrell and Robert Irwin, John McLaughlin and Alessandro Laita, contemporaries of Baltz's with whom he shared artistic and life experiences. The book also offers insights on more general issues, such as the landscape and cities "in the age of nothing special".
While the gelid calm of Baltz's post-apocalyptic imagery helped purify the photograph of the last thirty years from the rhetorically opposing currents of social exposé and revelation, the harsh, even caustic tone of these writings continues to be relevant, challenging the presumed certainties upon which we base the institutions of art and photography.