Erik SchmittBerkeley, CA
This is an ongoing project exploring vast industrial structures located within the Bay Area in California. These massive structures of concrete, glass and steel were created without consideration for their esthetic impact. They are functional, utilitarian, engineered structures that are mostly free from the language of design and architecture. But their use and the passage of time have left a rich and complex patina upon them.
They are often ignored as industrial blight; but they serve as witnesses to the historical transformations taking place in our urban environments.
One common thread that runs through this series is an exploration of scale and isolation. In an effort to capture these massive structures, their rich detail, and their rootedness to the ground, they have been isolated from their immediate surroundings.
My interest in the arts was borne out of my upbringing in a family of creative people—a father and two aunts who attended Black Mountain College and exposed me to the visual arts and fired my imagination with stories of studying with Robert Rauschenberg, Josef Albers, Ruth Asawa and Merce Cunningham. I grew up in Seattle and the San Juan Islands but moved to the Bay Area to study Design and Photography at the California College of the Arts Where I received my B.F.A. There I found myself in the midst of a Bauhaus–inspired approach to arts education—studying design, photography and painting. I had the good fortune to study with Larry Sultan, Suzanne Lacy, and Michael Manwaring, among others. This lack of barriers between the branches of the arts has stayed with me and continues to inform my work.
In my professional life, I have pursued design and photography in tandem. My photographic practice has evolved from working with medium-format cameras and traditional darkroom printing techniques for 15 years to using digital equipment. I have come to see great creative potential in the digital tools at my disposal.