Robert Harding Pittman (Germany/USA)
During the course of my life, I have seen more and more land bulldozed away for development. Nature has always been a great source of inspiration and solace for me, and seeing its continuing destruction saddens me. My photography and film work combines art, documentary,and activism, with the aim of raising awareness to try to help protect our Earth, its lands, and its cultures.
My photographic book and traveling exhibition ANONYMIZATION is about the global proliferation of urban sprawl, with its cookie-cutter, master-planned communities, golf courses, shopping malls, and jammed freeways, not just in the United States but also the rest of the world. These anonymous developments are built without any regard for the local culture, environment, or climate. This indifference is exemplified by planting grass golf courses in the desert.
The project began when I moved to Los Angeles to study at Cal Arts, where I fell in love with the desert. I became disturbed to see it disappearing so rapidly for the purpose of massive developments. When I found the same type of soulless, uniform architecture in many other countries, I came to the idea of making a global book, which has tracked the movement from construction boom to crisis for more than a decade.
The message I want to convey is that by insisting on this way of building and living in disharmony with the Earth, we are destroying not only the environment, but also our cultures, and ultimately ourselves. We are cutting off our roots that connect us to the planet.
These images... remind us… of how much we long for real places, real texture, real homes, real communities. In many cases they’re the face of the housing bust—but also some much deeper bust, in the way we’ve been thinking (or not) about the world.
—William McKibben, environmentalist, author, and journalist
Robert Harding Pittman
Robert Harding Pittman grew up in Boston and Hamburg, the son of a German mother and American father. After earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of California,Berkeley, both in environmental engineering, an area of concern that continues to inform his work, he received a M.F.A. in photography and film/video at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) in Valencia. His main interest is how different cultures interact with the environment and how they manage “development.”
His traveling exhibition and photography book Anonymization (Heidelberg, Germany: Kehrer Verlag, 2012) was nominated for the Prix Pictet and a German PhotoBook Award. It has received wide media attention including in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, WIRED, Newsweek Japan, The Daily Beast, El País, TVE, ZDF, EuropeanPhotography, and Aesthetica magazine. The project has been exhibited internationally in photography festivals, museums, and galleries, and it continues to travel.
His award-winning documentaries, which address many of the same issues treated in Anonymization, showing the environmental, human, and cultural costs of the development of our lands and the extraction of energy resources, have been screened at festivals worldwide as well as on television.
His photographs and films are in public and private collections.