Victoria Sambunaris: Taxonomy of a Landscape

March 08 2015

Diversity is an important feature of the United States—not only in its people, but also its landscapes. They vary greatly, from the vast canyons of the Southwest to the towering skyline of New York City. These landscapes aren’t just focused on nature, but also how we who occupy the land and where our culture intersects with it. The photographer Victoria Sambunaris has been documenting these landscapes over the course of 14 years, with the result being her recent book Taxonomy of a Landscape.

With a 5×7 wooden field camera and sheets of color negative film, Sambunaris painstakingly prepares and plans for each shot in advance. When we spoke to her via email, she was traveling along the Texas coast, trying to wrap-up a current project before having to drive all the way back to NYC. Without a hint of irony, Sambunaris said, “it’s been a long road.”

UNTITLED (Farm with Workers) Jacumba, California, 2010 UNTITLED (Housing), Del Rio, Texas, 2012.RADIUSBOOKS

Released via Radius Books late last year, Taxonomy of a Landscape is split into two volumes. The first contains a retrospective collection of her photographs from 2000 to 2013, and the second is a visual catalog of her collected ephemera from her life as a photographer and researcher. Sambunaris is fascinated with the way the American landscape intersects with geology and the energy industry, so it was natural for her to include these books, maps and artifacts in some of her work.

Born in 1964, Sambunaris received her MFA from Yale University in 1999. Ever since, she has been structuring her life around her trips across the United States. No stranger to accolades, her work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the National Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Lannan Foundation.

UNTITLED (White Trains on Salt Flats, I-80) Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah, 2002.RADIUSBOOKS UNTITLED (Red Containers), Wet Ground.Fort Worth, Texas, 2000.RADIUSBOOKS UNTITLED (Distant Steam Vents), Yellowstone National Park, 2008_RADIUSBOOKS UNTITLED (Coal mine), Gillette, Wyoming, 2007.RADIUSBOOKS UNTITLED (Santa Elena Canyon), Big Bend National Park, Texas, 2010.RADIUSBOOKS

To purchase Taxonomy of a Landscape, visit Radius Books.

Austin Bryant is a freelance writer based in Boston, MA. Follow him on Instagram.