Michael Light journeys into the vast geological space and time of the Great Basin—the heart of a storied national “void”that is both actual and psychological, treasured as much for its tabula rasa possibilities as it is hated for its utter hostility to human needs.
Twelve thousand years ago most of the Great Basin––that part of the country between California and Utah where water does not drain to the ocean—was 900 feet underwater, covered by two vast and now largely evaporated historical lakes, Bonneville and Lahontan. The shrunken remnants of Lake Bonneville today are the Great Salt Lake in Utah and its eponymous salt flats, while the best known portion of the former Lake Lahontan is the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, an alkali bed that floods and dries each year, creating the flattest topography on earth, home to the annual counterculture festival Burning Man.
Piloting his 600-pound aircraft at low elevations, Light explores this mythic space deeply and abstractly, finding in the emptiness as much evidence of our presence as absence—and revealing heretofore unseen palimpsests of vehicular and urban glyphics that come and go with the seasons. Reflecting Light’s ongoing survey themes of mapping, perceptual orientation, and human impact on the land, but in a newly minimal and psychological direction, Lake Lahontan | Lake Bonneville offers an elegiac and forceful look at the politics of erasure.
Michael Light is a San Francisco-based photographer focused on the environment and how contemporary American culture relates to it. For the last sixteen years, Light has aerially photographed over settled and unsettled areas of American space, pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, human impact on the land, and various aspects of geologic time and the sublime. A private pilot and Guggenheim Fellow, he is currently working on an extended aerial survey of arid America titled Some Dry Space: An Inhabited West.