Makeda Best, the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Harvard Art Museums, recently received the prestigious Photography Catalog of the Year award at the 2022 Paris Photo–Aperture PhotoBook Awards. Selected each year since 2012, the awards also recognize excellence in two other major photobook publishing categories: First PhotoBook and PhotoBook of the Year.
Best was honored for her 2021 publication Devour the Land: War and American Landscape Photography since 1970, which explores how contemporary photographers have responded to the impact of the US military on the domestic environment since the 1970s, a dynamic period for environmental activism and photography. The catalog accompanied an extensive exhibition on view at the Harvard Art Museums from September 17, 2021 to January 16, 2022.
The jury of five judges, made up of photographer and author Sunil Gupta; curator and art historian Holly Roussell; the curator, writer and historian Pauline Vermare; director of the Institut pour la Photographie Anne Lacoste; and art sociology professor Alain Quemin, commented:
Reconsidering the traditions of the photographic landscape has been an important area of study in recent years. In Devour the Land, Harvard Art Museums curator Makeda Best continues this vital endeavor by bringing together sixty contemporary artists who explore the intersection of environmental degradation, environmental activism, and the military-industrial complex as stone corner of his work. In-depth analyzes by Best and a number of other essayists introduce each of the six thematic chapters, providing context for the following series of works, each from a broad cross-generational set of artists. The book also includes insightful interviews with key photographers that appear in short, multicolored pages, further helping to guide the reader through each section.
Lesley A. Martin, Aperture’s creative director and one of the jurors involved in selecting this year’s shortlist for the awards, observed:
Devour the Land is designed like a handbook: a spiral-bound paperback that initially appears somewhat tentative in form, but that feeling is quickly tempered by the depth and criticality of the content: it’s a bright, loose form that gives the reader’s easy access to the complex and attractive layers of information there.
The catalog, edited by Best, presents a wide range of voices at the intersection of art, environmentalism, militarism, photography and politics. Alongside interviews with prominent contemporary artists working in the tradition of landscape photography—Sheila Pree Bright, Terry Evans, Ashley Gilbertson, David T. Hanson, Stacy Kranitz, Jin Lee, Richard Misrach, Barbara Norfleet and Oscar Palacio— there are essays by Best, Steven Hoelscher, Abrahm Lustgarten, Courtney J. Martin, Katherine Mintie, and Will Wilson. The publication also features work by dozens of photographers, including those interviewed above, as well as Ansel Adams, Robert Adams, Per Brandin, Robert Del Tredici, Dorothy Marder, Alex Webb and many more. Ed Roberson contributed two poems from his collection “To See the Earth Before the End of the World” (2010).
Watch a trailer for Devour the Land on Vimeo or YouTube. Learn more at harvardartmuseums.org/devourtheland.