In the early days of January 2016, a group of heavily armed protesters supported by alt-right militiamen illegally took over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a federally-protected wildlife area of the Oregon high desert. The 40-day showdown with law enforcement officers that ensued culminated in the dramatic killing of Robert LaVoy Finicum, the occupiers' spokesperson, who was shot dead by the FBI at a roadblock a few miles from the refuge, and the arrest of the occupiers.
The Malheur standoff is the latest instalment of the Sagebrush Rebellion, a conflict between the Federal Government and a small but vocal and increasingly violent number of ranchers, business-owners and local officials, which started in the early 1970s. In the American West, the vast majority of land is Federal property and is regulated by Federal agencies. Ownership and management of this land, the Sagebrush Rebels claim, belong to the people and should be transferred to states and counties.
Malheur is a visual fable about a desolate American West where disenfranchised citizens, power-hungry local officials, and patriot groups unite in a shared hatred of the Federal Government. It was shot in the weeks that followed the standoff as a way to confront the Frontier-infused and largely delusional rhetoric of the occupiers with the realities of the territory where their discourse originates.
At the very heart of Malheur is a difficult question: how do external physical conditions, the place where we live, affect the way we see ourselves and perceive others – and eventually shape our relationship with truth? As we try to make sense of the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and the sudden pervasiveness of "alternative facts" in our society, Malheur is an invitation to take a closer look at the lives of those who are unaware of reality or have grown indifferent to it.
What does it look like at the end of the subway line, miles away from the bustling streets of Manhattan, one of the most photographed places on Earth? New City Views is the result of a year-long exploration of the vastness of the other boroughs of New York City – a territory that, while home to an overwhelming majority of the city’s population, has yet to be claimed visually.
Using the clarity and precision of the large format view camera, I set out to document the invisible fringes of the City. Some of the places that I encountered have barely changed since the days of Berenice Abbott. Some have already disappeared. None of them resembled the New York that we collectively imagine.
New City Views is a visual repository of territories that few of us will ever experience, which seeks to illustrate how intricately complex and multifaceted a landscape can be. By collecting and presenting unexpected views of the City, this work encourages the viewer to reflect on how partial and incomplete one’s understanding of reality may be.