Chris Faust, a Twins Cities-based artist, was trained as a biologist before turning to black-and-white photography in the mid-1980s. Through stark images, he investigates the geographic expressions of contemporary environmental values and priorities. He has pursued themes such as wilderness ecology, the loss of Midwestern grain elevators, Lake Superior ore boats, and suburban sprawl.
These photographs are part of The Suburban Documentation Project, which Faust began with landscape architect Frank Edgerton Martin in 1990. This project documents urban sprawl–the ways in which middle-American cities are developing third-, fourth-, and even fifth-ring suburbs that eat away farmland with the building of mass-produced housing and strip malls. The link between these new developments is the centrality of the car and the freeway in the lives of residents and the very shaping of the land, a particularly American concern.
In Faust’s photographs, taken with a specialized panorama or “banquet format” camera, the human presence is often absent, which gives the images a detached or even eerie sensibility. The houses in Bankrupt Developer Homes, Apple Valley, MN almost look like facades on a Hollywood movie set, while The Edge, Eden Prairie, MN shows the sharp divide between what has been and what is coming in metropolitan growth. The artist says, “The artifacts of what people do are important to me, not necessarily the people themselves.”