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Matinee: Christine Holtz Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

16 May 2020

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 344th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Meet the Artist: Photographer Christine Holtz.

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In this 3:36 film by Leslie Koren, photographer Christine Holtz talks about researching and photographing her city's illegal dump sites. The research and the photography go hand-in-hand with each other, she points out.

Holtz, who is based in Pittsburgh, earned a BFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA in imaging arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

She is currently a professor of media arts at Robert Morris University where she was instrumental in developing the photography concentration, BFA and BA in media arts as well as the photography minor.

Holtz also serves as president of the board of directors Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media.

She has exhibited at a number of prestigious institutions including the Carnegia Museum of Art, the George Eastman Museum, Boston Center for the Arts and the Houston Center for Photography, among others.

With Lauren Zadikow, with whom she had been photographing since 2001, Holtz documented the illegal dump sites near public greenspaces in a project they called 50 Greenspace Dumpsites.

The images show the bucolic spaces without a hint of garbage but the accompanying data page details the extent of the dumping below the surface.

The project began in the spring of 2012 in partnership with Allegheny CleanWays, a local non-profit that organizes volunteer clean-ups. Allegheny granted the pair access to its statistical and GPS data, which was integral to developing the project.

In a piece for LensCulture, Holtz explained:

We delved into the mass of data, mapping known coordinates. Not only are there more than 300 documented dump sites, many exist on the sides of steep hills and in the woodsy perimeters of residential neighborhoods. More disturbing, many sites are in close proximity to greenspaces often used for outdoor recreation. This aspect of the data stood out so much, that we chose to document 50 of these specific locations. These included public parks, little league fields, cemeteries and playgrounds. Evidence of people dumping different types of materials and waste varies from site to site; old shingles, construction waste, carpeting and tons of tires litter the scenes.

Zadilow passed away in December 2016 but Holtz is here to tell the story of the urban dumping, certainly not unique to Pittsburgh, they uncovered.

She found the behavior is ingrained in the culture. Generations have been dumping in the same places for a long time and consequently think nothing of it.

So the problem, she adds, is teaching people to respect the environment they share with other people.

Which is precisely what 50 Greenspace Dumpsites continues to do.

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