Three Gorges Dam, Sandouping, Yiling, Hubei, People’s Republic of China. 2010-11 © David Thomas Smith, courtesy of the artist

Portraits of the Anthropocene by David Thomas Smith

‘I make work that is multi-dimensional. Having come from a background in documentary photography, it is important to me to draw attention to socio-economic and political issues. While at the same time exploring more metaphysical concepts… I make my work aesthetically pleasing, rich in detail and large in scale in the hopes that the viewer can reflect on the ideas and issues that are prevalent in the work, whilst also getting a better sense of their own position in the world.’ – David Thomas Smith, Dublin based photographer

I found David’s work yesterday, a pity, as I wish I’d seen it before I’d written my recent article on ‘the Anthropocene: 10 000 years of ecocide. His photographic works in his Anthropocene series, each made up of thousands of images, show much more detailed perspectives and offer a more unsettling reflection on the state of the earth, compared to the ‘Welcome to the Anthropocene’ video that I reviewed in my article. His works do this as they cleverly engage one on many different levels. The intricate patterns and colours in the photographs are aesthetically arresting in their own right, yet a tension exists in the works as one is presented with the enormous scale of our own species activities: Humanity’s effects on the biosphere, in the Age of the Anthropocene, are here confirmed as inconceivably sublime.

Fimiston Open Pit, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia, Australia, 2009-10 © David Thomas Smith

Fimiston Open Pit, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia, Australia, 2009-10
© David Thomas Smith, courtesy of the artist

As in the Welcome to the Anthropocene video, the perspective in these works is a god-like one from above, conveying the enormous power of our species. Interestingly, most of David’s works are in portrait, not landscape format. To me this suggests another reference to the powerful and dominant ‘human’, anthropocentric perspective;  these are  not merely aerial landscapes.  We can see this too as David’s  creates kaleidoscopic pattern arrangements of the data files, moving the works to an abstract level. We find too that his initial inspiration were influenced by the ancient formal patterns of Persian rug makers. Such ancient textile patterning, David informs us, allowed weavers of the past ‘to record their experiences more literally … of the war torn land that surrounded them.”

‘David’s work is ‘composited from thousands of digital files drawn from aerial views taken from Internet satellite images, this work reflects upon the complex structures that make up the centres of global capitalism, transforming the aerial landscapes of sites associated with industries such as oil, precious metals, consumer culture information and excess. Thousands of seemingly insignificant coded pieces of information are sown together like knots in a rug to reveal a grander spectacle.’

To see more of David’s work visit his site here. My thanks to David for allowing me to share his work on this site.

Note, I discovered David’s work in Issue 6: The Future of The Fold, an occasional Irish publication that gathers artists together on the ‘space of the page’ to consider a particular theme.  Edited by Cora Cummins and Alison Pilkington

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