Joel Sternfeld

Museum of Fine Arts

“American Prospects,” the title of Joel Sternfeld’s retrospective, invites three readings of work that represents nine years of itinerant photographic practice. Prospects are first of all views, usually commanding views that extend from a particular outlook to the horizon. Sternfeld’s handsome color photographs are typically of this sort. He most often positions his large-format (8-by-10-inch) view camera at sites that survey certain segments of contemporary American landscape, those that tend to lie along the margins of our postindustrial, urban culture where signs of a different sort of prospecting can be traced.

In photograph after photograph, Sternfeld pictures a relationship between man and earth founded on a materialist ideology wherein natural bounty is understood as rightfully accessible to the techniques of production and profit. At the same time, Sternfeld’s representations are

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