Photographer Linda Kuehne explores the cultural implications of the man-altered landscape in suburbs across the United States. She grew up in a suburb outside of New York City. Even though it was only 50 miles from the city, her town had more in common with the suburbs of the Midwest than it did the Northeast. Vast housing tracts with no town centers, no aesthetically pleasing architecture; very little culture to speak of—all lead to a monotony and deadening of spirit that the artist wanted to escape. Originally she photographed the suburban landscape as a way to understand her impulse to flee the tight constraints of small-town living.
But it became much more than that when the recession hit in 2008. Upscale suburban towns, just like the inner cities of larger metropolitan areas like Detroit, were imploding. Storefronts were vacant with nothing to replace them even in affluent neighborhoods and towns that used to thrive. She has been photographing these changes ever since, returning to some of the same buildings, seeing little improvement. The communities seem to be living around a new reality of empty storefronts and abandoned buildings that do not go away.
After the artist began photographing these abandoned and empty buildings, she became aware of the seminal 1975 exhibition "New Topographics" at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. What differentiates her work from theirs is that those photographers photographed the steady, seemingly never-ending creep of suburban development. There was still a sense of optimism in the country then; the American Dream was seemingly alive and well. Today, however, something else is going on. Photographing the changes over the last several years, she sees little, if any, improvement. The communities are living around a new reality of empty storefronts and abandoned buildings that do not go away. The photographer has come to realize that the work, while encompassing the concerns--formal and otherwise--of the New Topographic photographers, extends beyond them to try and understand what is happening in today's 21st century America.