Devour the Land: War and American Landscape Photography since 1970

, Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
  • Untitled (army men w/ airplane mural, Middleton, Pennsylvania)
  • Operation Crossroads Hearing (Russell Senate Office Building, Room SR-418, Washington, D.C., December 11, 1985)
  • Distant View of Camp Apache, Arizona
  • Grumman Aerospace, Bethpage
  • Assembly Line -- Detroit
  • Trinity: site of the first atomic bomb test: 65 miles from Alamogordo. White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico 1988
  • Naval Weapons Testing Base: The Salton Sea, CA, 29,000 acres, Abandoned in 1974 because of total contamination: additional information confidential
  • Burnt out Vehicles on Highway 80
  • Fence, Gettysburg National Military Park, PA
  • Concrete Stump, Gettysburg National Military Park, PA
  • New Crop Varieties for Extreme Weather, Geneva Greenhouses, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, New York
  • Smoke 1
  • TNT Storage Igloo N6-B, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, 2012
  • U.S. Highway 90, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Former George Air Force Base, Victorville, California
  • A resident talks to workers in the Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, California on May 5, 2017.
  • Abandoned Mill Tailings Pipeline on Karnes Country Ranch Land
  • CAD92212497, Intel Magnetics, Santa Clara, CA
  • Donathan Jones, 15, bucks his horse, Quinn, on a vacant lot in Colfax, Louisiana on May 8, 2017.
  • Wreckage of World Trade Center on Cortlandt Street, New York City, September 11, 2001
  • Dried Pond along the Rio Grande
  • Motorcycle Course with Containment Facility in distance, Love Canal, Niagara Falls, New York
  • Soil Remediation, Mattiace Petrochemical, Glen Cove, New York
  • Grassland #043
  • Dead Animals #1
  • Judy and Ed O'Meara
  • Untitled (young man in military jacket)
  • Long Island Landscape (civic green with war monument and Santa Claus)
  • Grumman Aerospace, Bethpage
  • Brookhaven National Lab, Control Room, Nuclear Reactor
  • Lab Technician, Reactor Building, Brookhaven National Lab
  • Poosepatuck Indian Reservation, Mastic
  • Aspens, Northern New Mexico
  • High level radioactive waste from Laurence Livermore Laboratories waiting to go to a permanent site for storage, Nevada Test site: 1350 square miles, NV
  • Abandoned Airfield, Eglin Air Force Base: 725 square miles, FL
  • View from top of Yucca Mountain (proposed permanent storage facility for high level nuclear wastes), Nevada Test Site: 1350 square miles, NV
  • Princesses Against Plutonium, Nuclear Test Site, Nevada
  • Man with a bag 1
  • Mine shaft on northside of Treece (Kansas) filled with water and garbage
  • Entrance to Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Authority Monitoring Station
  • Chevron’s 160 Acre Uranium Mill Tailings Pond
  • River Clean-up, Swannanoa River, Asheville, North Carolina
  • Mary, Esther, and Ellis, members of the Organization Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, Uniontown, Alabama
  • ExxonMobil Chemical Company, Baton Rouge, Plastics Plant
  • Magnolia Mound Plantation Home, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Frankie McCray at home in his trailer in Colfax, Louisiana on May 8, 2017.
  • Peggy Gann, 61, her husband, George, 65, and their grandson, Mason, outside their home on August 23, 2017.
  • Bomb Cage / Eagle Sanctuary
  • Edgar Thomson Plant and the Bottom
  • Bomb Crater and Standing Water (pink)
  • Mexican Hat Disposal Cell, cylindrical projection, Halchita, UT, Navajo Nation
  • Nevada Death House Prison, Carson City, NV
  • The White Train (Pantex Nuclear Weapons Final Assembly Plant, Carson County, Texas, August 7, 1982)
  • All the Warheads in the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal
  • Grumman
  • Diner View, Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead
  • Social Studies Class, Port Jefferson High School
  • Grumman Aerospace, Bethpage
  • Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, New Brighton, MN, 1 1/4 square miles, Toxins from this plant polluted water in three towns
  • Naval Weapons Testing Base (29,000 acres), (abandoned in '74 because of total contamination: additional information confidential), The Salton Sea, CA
  • Dying Cow Wanders in Burning Oil Fields
  • Horse and Tire Tracks
  • Praise, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • CAD97012298, Fairchild Semiconductor Corp., San Jose, CA
  • Standard Heights, Baton Rouge, LA
  • CAD980894885, South Bay Asbestos Area, Alviso, CA
  • CAD041472986, National Semiconductor Corp., Santa Clara, CA
  • Mountain range surrounding the Nevada Test Site
  • Pylons, Hiteman Leather, West Winfield, New York
  • Cemetery
  • Perth Amboy Industrial area on edge of town
  • A housing development bordering the Starmet Superfund site, Concord, Massachusetts, USA
  • A7-D, 150th TAC Fighter Group, New Mexico Air National Guard, Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Untitled (government ceremony, Roswell, New Mexico)
  • Grumman Aerospace, Great River Plant
  • Endo Lab, Garden City
  • Guard, Reactor Building, Brookhaven National Lab
  • Subsidence Craters on Yucca Flat, Nevada Test Site
  • Coyote in radioactive area, Nevada Test Site: 1350 square miles, Nevada
  • Citco Refinery 1
  • Abandoned Bunkers and Train, Now a Cornfield, September 1995
  • Cow and Horse Grazing at the Plenemuk Burial Mound Site, January 1, 1997
  • Former Enka Rayon Plant, Hominy Creek, Enka, North Carolina
  • White Oak Lake, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • Steve’s Chair
  • Monitoring Wells, Paducah
  • Scotlandville, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Monte Sano Bayou, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Caroline Harrell (sitting in distance with baby) and her family fishing at the Iatt Dam, in Colfax, Louisiana on May 9, 2017.
  • Susan Roper, 63, retired, and her husband Rick Roper, 61, an emergency room nurse, tend to their vegetable garden behind their home in Mapleton, Utah, on November 11, 2017.
  • Auto Immune Response: Confluence of Three Generations
  • Dead Fish
  • Model T Headquarters, Highland Park, Detroit
  • Icebergs from the Gilkey Glacier, Alaska
  • America Will Not Forget
  • Mega Millions 2
  • Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, near Middleton, Pennsylvania, 2007
  • TNT Storage Igloo N7-A, Point Pleasant, West Virginia
  • Headlands, Sausalito
  • Lailey Sczepanik and Daughter, Katja
  • Standard Heights, Baton Rouge, LA
  • A cloud of smoke rises above Radford Army Ammunition Plant during an open burn of high explosives on the New River in South West Virginia, on May 30, 2017.
  • Leaf Cutter Ants
  • Cascade Mountains, source of water for cooling Hanford reactor
  • Untitled #6
  • School Bus Target
  • Destroyed Vehicle with Active Eagle’s Nest, Bravo 20 Bombing Range, Nevada
  • Boy on bike, Perth Amboy corner State & Smith Street
  • Track stretches for miles in each direction, creating a network of trains that frequently pass through The Village of Dolton. Common warning horns of freight trains echo throughout the southern suburb everyday, every hour, and during one of many community events of the year—Steppin at the Fountain. Where on a nearby hilltop of the Dolton Public Library, a young girl dances to the rhythm of her own imagination.
  • On Sibley Boulevard, Dolton’s main commercial strip, newsstands that once offered job and housing information sit empty, replaced with “For Rent” signs. Deindustrialization throughout the south suburbs decades ago eliminated thousands of private-sector jobs.
  • Eisenhower Park
  • Olympus Corporation, Woodbury
  • Survey Stake and Bulldozed Birch, Edge of Riverhead
  • Pegasus, New York Thruway
  • North Wall, Semicoa, 333 McCormick, Costa Mesa
  • Naval Weapons Testing Base: abandoned. The Salton Sea, California 1989
  • Testing water from tritium and plutonium processing buildings before it goes to surface streams, The Savannah River Plant: 300 square miles, Aiken, SC
  • Ellerton: the last traces of the town destroyed to build the Savannah River Plant,  Savannah River Plant: 300 square miles, Aiken, SC
  • Abandoned Complex 34, Cape Canaveral: 25 square miles, FL
  • High level radioactive waste storage tank: Savannah River Plant (300 square miles): Aiken, SC. 35 million gallons of high level radioactive waste are stored in the deteriorating tanks
  • Community monitoring station with noble gas and tritium samples, Pahrump, NV
Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Explore the impacts of military activity on the American landscape—and the ways in which photography supports activism in response to these effects.

Devour the Land shines a light on the unexpected and often hidden consequences of militarism on habitats and well-being in the United States. Featuring approximately 160 photographs across 6 thematic groupings, the exhibition reveals the nationwide footprint of the U.S. military, the wide network of industries that support and supply its work, and the impacts of—and responses to—this activity.

How do photographs portray environmental damage that can be difficult to see, much less identify and measure? By posing such questions, the exhibition provides visitors a space to consider our current challenges and shared future. At the same time, the works on view also suggest how preparations for war and the aftermath can sometimes lead to surprising instances of ecological regeneration and change.

Following a trajectory that originates in the Civil War era, Devour the Land begins with the 1970s, a dynamic period for both environmental activism and photography. From there, the focus expands to our contemporary moment.

The 60 artists showcased in the exhibition bring a variety of practices and approaches to their work. They range from professional photographic artists and photojournalists to lesser known and emerging photographers; they include Robert Adams, Federica Armstrong, Sheila Pree Bright, Robert Del Tredici, Terry Evans, Lucas Foglia, Sharon Gilbert, Ashley Gilbertson, Peter Goin, Joshua Dudley Greer, David T. Hanson, Zig Jackson, Stacy Kranitz, Dorothy Marder, Susan Meiselas, Richard Misrach, Barbara Norfleet, Mark Power, Jeff Rich, Sim Chi Yin, Sharon Stewart, Robert Toedter, Phil Underdown, and Will Wilson.

The majority of works on display are drawn from the Harvard Art Museums collections, including many recent acquisitions. Additional works are on loan from other Harvard repositories, North American public institutions, and private collections.

An illustrated catalogue, presenting a lively range of voices at the intersection of art, environmentalism, militarism, photography, and politics, accompanies the exhibition. Besides critical essays, nearly a hundred plates, and poems by Ed Roberson, the catalogue includes interviews with nine of the artists featured in the exhibition. The publication won Photography Catalogue of the Year at the 2022 Paris Photo–Aperture PhotoBook Awards.

Organized by the Harvard Art Museums. Curated by Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, Harvard Art Museums.

This exhibition is made possible in part by the generosity of the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support for the project is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Publication Fund and the Rosenblatt Fund for Postwar American Art. Related programming is supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

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Related Installation
Visit the museums’ Lightbox Gallery on Level 5 to explore in closer detail select portfolios represented in the exhibition: Nina Berman’s Acknowledgment of Danger, Peter Goin’s Nuclear Landscapes, David T. Hanson’s Waste Land, and Barbara Norfleet’s The Landscape of the Cold War. A free poster is available in this space for visitors to take home; it overlays a map of the United States with key developments in environmental policy and activism over the last 50 years.

Learn more about the exhibition in our series of videos, including a recording of an introductory lecture by curator Makeda Best. Over the coming months, artists featured in the exhibition will share their activism and viewpoints through a series of interviews. View on the museums’ YouTube channel.

Harvard Film Archive Program
The Harvard Film Archive will offer a related program of films this fall — Devour the Land: Cinema, Landscape, History — which expands on the exhibition’s central themes. The program features 14 films (a mix of virtual and in-person screenings) and runs October 8 through December 6. Find details about the films, screening times, and more on the HFA’s website.

A Spotify playlist spanning nearly nine decades of environmentalism in music extends the experience of the exhibition. The playlist, available through the Harvard Art Museums profile on Spotify (, features songs by Johnny Cash, Mos Def, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Xiuhtezcatl, Midnight Oil, and others.