Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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After a Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, July, '79

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After a Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, July, '79
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Joel Sternfeld


After a Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, July, '79

Creation Date


Medium & Support

dye transfer print


15 3/16 in. x 18 15/16 in. (38.5 cm. x 48.1 cm.)

Credit Line

Museum Purchase

Accession Number



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Joel Sternfeld’s photograph highlights the catastrophic power of nature and its effect on human development. Part of a series called American Prospects that Sternfeld created while traveling from California to Maine in the late 1970s, this photograph embraces the irony of humans at the mercy of nature. Sternfeld is often associated with a group of landscape photographers called The New Topographics, who favored deadpan scenes of man-altered landscapes.

The juxtaposition between the normality of the suburb in the top half of the image and the exposed terrain in the bottom half is both unsettling and peaceful. At first glance, attention drifts from the unscathed car on the road to the other that is half buried at the bottom of the cliff. The scene hints at the constant struggle between human development and nature, in which man’s interventions can effortlessly be wiped away.

Portfolios: OLD_FEATC|GOVT1031_181114|Elias|Weapons of the Weak   Collections: Works on paper - Photographs