Love Canal, no.1, Niagara Falls, New York© Panoramic Photo collage with Kodak type C prints and Nimslo 3-D prints, 1990 Size: 21" x 35"

"Ohio EPA Superfund Sites: Panoramic Photo Collages by Masumi Hayashi"

Source: Artful Dodge, 22/23 edited by Daniel Bourne and Karen Kovacik, 1992, Worster, Ohio

How one becomes interested in a project is a curious process. I find that the themes for my panoramic photo collages have evolved in many ways, and seem to reflect my social and historical consciousness, my own background and anxieties. This current project involving toxic waste sites seems to reflect not only my concerns about people and the land, but also about a collective, global anxiety about the environment. In the same way, in my next project, where I will visit Japanese American relocation camps—the Tule Lake Relocation Camp in Northern California and the Minidoka Relocation Camp in Idaho—shooting the camps and interviewing survivors, I will continue my exploration of the textures and struggles of my personal and cultural history.

My concerns about toxic waste sites were especially sharpened in 1971 when I worked for the Department of Pollution Control in Florida—nine years before Love Canal became the first Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site. Then in 1987 my concern was revived and localized when I read Ted Wendling’s Cleveland Plain Dealer article about the EPA Superfund Site 666 in Elyria, Ohio. Ironically, the picture accompanying the article was that of a picturesque pond. At the time, I had just had a one-person show involving my panoramic photo collages of Cleveland post-industrial landscapes. It was then I realized that these toxic waste sites are our post-industrial heritage. The irony of the image-photo (bucolic and pristine) and the context/reality (invisible contamination) was compelling. Thus, I started photographing the Ohio Superfund Sites with an intent to focus on beautiful landscapes and their invisible toxic wastes. Later, I expanded the concept to include mundane, everyday, even industrial landscapes, to further emphasize the incongruity between appearance and reality in our everyday lives.

The narrative I composed for each image provided additional irony. The voice of these narratives is meant to be governmental, even officious—but also informational—and the sources are real. Indeed, these texts were intended to show what is not visible in the images. Pictures can lie.—Masumi Hayashi, July 20, 1992