Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate
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John Ganis
Born in Chicago, IL, in 1951
Resides in Pleasant Ridge, MI

According to John Ganis, “the American approach towards the land is often characterized by mindless development and exploitation of both public and private land for corporate profit [and] we are now aggressively exporting this consumerist attitude to the rest of the world.” Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1951, John Ganis earned his Bachelor of Arts from Ohio Wesleyan University. Ganis then moved to New York City where he assisted Irving Penn and studied independently under Lisette Model. It was at this time that he met Larry Fink, who would become his mentor. Ganis later earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona in 1980, where he studied with Harold Jones, W. Eugene Smith, and Todd Walker. In 1980 he began his career in education as a professor in the Photography Department of the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, Michigan.

His photographic work is documentary in nature, done mostly in color, and has its sources in his wide-ranging travels in the United States and abroad. The continuing focus of his work has been on places where land development and resource extraction have had an impact on the American landscape. Ganis views these places as indexes of contemporary cultural values. According to Vince Carducci, the fact that Ganis's photographs' "troubling subject is the ugliness perpetrated by humankind in pursuit of profit through myopic exploitation of the natural environment makes them all the more memorable.”

Exhibitions of his work have been held at Union Square Gallery in New York, Ohio Wesleyan University, and the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. His photographs are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Ganis’s work has also been published in Aperture magazine and he was a 2003 FiftyCrows PhotoFund Finalist for the North America Region. A monograph of his photographs titled Consuming the American Landscape was published in the fall of 2003. Today, John Ganis continues his teaching at CCS, where he was appointed chair of the Photography department in 2000. He forges on to document what he terms America’s “over-developed/under-respected lands” (Carducci).

Pictures in Gallery


Works Description

Featuring over eighty photographs taken over the course of two decades, John Ganis’s collection Consuming the American Landscape (2003) chronicles the use and abuse of the American terrain. Ganis’s color photographs not only present a view of the ever-changing scenery of the United States, but also serve as a powerful criticism against the destruction of such beauty in the name of progress. The subjects of his works embody a wide variety of man made destruction, including the effects of highway construction, the logging industry, oil drilling, landfills, mining, and the overall industrial landscape.

Adding further depth to the project are several poems written by Stanley Diamond in response to Ganis’s photographs, a foreword on the implications of environmental abuse by Robert Sobieszek, and an afterword by George Thompson. Consuming the American Landscape steps beyond the borders of the art world to create a politically and socially charged piece on the need to find a balance between man and the natural world. In a day and age when the mantra is “Consume, Consume, Consume” Ganis’s artwork challenges the everyday American to take a step back and evaluate the consequences of such a lifestyle.

Selected Bibliography

Carducci, Vince. “Scratching the Surface of the Kodak Moment.” OCS Solutions, 3 February 2004. Weblink.

Ganis, John. Consuming the American Landscape. Stockport, UK: Dewi Lewis, 2003.

“Short review of Consuming the American Landscape.” Ag. Picture-Box Media. Weblink.

“John Ganis biography.” FiftyCrows Foundation 2004. Weblink.