Chad Gerth
Empty Lots, 2008


Empty Lots explores the intricacies of urban and human landscapes through images of abandoned parking lots slowly being reclaimed by nature. Made in Gerth's hometown of Chicago, these images represent the contemporary city not through its distinctive skyline but through the flatness of its terrain and the common yet unremarkable areas that exist in any city.


Shot from a high, almost vertiginous point of view, the cityscape is transformed into a barely recognizable visual plane of shape and colour. The modernist, machine-like grid construction of so many North American cities is here exemplified by the rigidly defined boundaries of both the lots and the photographs themselves, tightly cropped and carefully composed. Gerth calls these spaces, these empty lots, "gaps of grass in the cracks of the sidewalk or a rhizomic void in the skyline." They exist not as places of civic or social importance, but as vacant spaces beyond control of the city.


Suggesting the landscape of a pre-urban past, the photographs in Empty Lots also imply a post-human future: the eventual fall of the built, concrete world of human engagements to the relentless forces of nature.


Chad Gerth is interested in the intersection of technology, commerce, and contemporary culture. His work comprises time-lapse images of LP records playing, flattened candy wrappers, and the architecture of urban driving ranges in Japan. He works in series, often treating his subjects as biological specimens or scientific studies. Since his emergence in the late 1990s, Gerth has developed his own unique style of photography including the use of photograms; passing light through broken glass and ice directly onto orthographic film to create enigmatic x-ray like images. 

Gerth has written about his work: "Photographs are two-dimensional by nature, so the extra-dimensional information on the surface must be deciphered by some other process, most often memory. Object and event become process; process becomes surface; the surface holds information which can be revealed but not decoded." Gerth was born in 1975 and received his BFA from Ryerson University and his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago.