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David Hyams - A Costly Thirst
Water is as global an issue as there is, and an almost impossible and intimidating concept to wrestle with on such a large scale. A Costly Thirst is my initial foray into the issues of water and the struggle between exploration and exploitation of this precious resource, in one of the driest regions of the United States of America. This body of work has taken me all across the great basin, an area that receives less than 5 inches of precipitation a year. There are areas of the great basin that are very attractive for developers, and there is a long history of state and federal water works that have fed pockets of substantial growth. Las Vegas is one of these areas, and the city has been looking for alternative water supplies and watching the capacity of Lake Mead decline for years. One proposed solution would pump groundwater from an area on the Nevada & Utah border and pipe this new cash crop some 350 miles to the south to satisfy Las Vegas’ thirst for growth.

The Snake and Spring valleys, located on the border of Utah and Nevada are sparsely populated and remote. The first residents of the valley were the Fremont Indians, who established settlements in the region in the 13th century AD. Today’s residents rely on a fragile system of interconnected aquifers, which feed a surprisingly diverse and thriving ecosystem that supports a variety of game and livestock, and also provide an important habitat for migratory birds. Agriculture and tourism are responsible for the livelihoods of those who live in the area, and both of which are delicately woven within the water table. Life in these valleys is a stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas metro area. Its ranch land USA versus Sin City.

A Costly Thirst investigates the relationships between water and those who stake their claim over its rights. These images are designed to entice the viewer to question the sustainability of the growth is good model that has been practiced for over a century in the deserts of the west. My goal as a photographer is not to document what’s been done, but rather to suggest what’s at risk. My hope is that these images will inspire the viewer to make their own decisions as to the practices of water management in the west, and how this one resource dictates the social, economic and ecological landscape of this region.

Alejandro Durán - Washed Up
In my current project, Washed Up, I address the issue of plastic pollution making its way across the ocean and onto the shores of Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve. With more than twenty pre-Columbian archaeological sites, this UNESCO World Heritage site is also home to a vast array of flora and fauna and the world’s second largest coastal barrier reef. Unfortunately, Sian Ka’an is also a repository for the world’s trash, which is carried there by ocean currents from many parts of the globe.

Over the course of this project, I have identified plastic waste from fifty nations on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka'an. I have used this international debris to create color-based, site-specific sculptures. Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times I distribute the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic takes on the shape of algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.

More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable culture. Although inspired by the works of Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Smithson, Washed Up speaks to the environmental concerns of our time and its vast quantity of discarded materials. The alchemy of Washed Up lies not only in converting a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste.

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David Hyams Alejandro Durán