The wild landscape of the Western United States is being rapidly converted to a built landscape due to suburban development. The destructive nature of these large-scale developments immediately disrupts the ecosystems. Even after these developments are completed, they continue to destroy the adjacent environment in the wild-land urban interface due to human caused wildfires, habitat fragmentation, enhancing invasive species migration, surface and groundwater pollution, soil erosion, and pesticide impacts on wildlife. Habitat Lost: Negative Effects of Suburban Sprawl on Ecosystems, is a response to this uncontrolled ecological destruction.
The work is comprised of large 20” x 30” black and white, digital, high contrast prints of the constructed environment. Furthering the dialogue of environmental loss from suburban development, small kallitype prints on fabric, encased in encaustic wax, of the lost wildlife and habitat, are hung in front of the large black and white images. This body of work relates both to western society’s desire to replace natural land and environments with contemporary construction and developments, as well as photography’s desire to replace the historical with the digital photographic prints.
The environmental impacts from suburban developments are pervasive, widespread and not easily resolved. Changes to zoning requirements, community planning, and the use of infill development can provide short term mitigation to the onslaught of environmental damage from rampant over-development. However, long-term preservation of biodiversity will require us to embrace the moral principles of ecocentric thought, accepting that all living things have intrinsic value and are interconnected. This conversion of ethical thought will not occur overnight, but failure to move in this direction will continue to adversely affect our ecological sustainability, leading to further disruption of habitats and the extinction of species.
Debra Small received her bachelor’s degree in Biology in 1978 from the University of California, Riverside. She worked as a scientist for the State of California for over 10 years. Debra received her associate of science degree in photography as well as her certificate of achievement in photography in 2015 from Sierra College, Rocklin, CA. She received her Master of Fine Arts in photography at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, in July 2018.
As a fine art documentary photographer, Debra explores important environmental and socio-political issues. She shoots in digital as well as medium and large format film. She also uses alternative process photography to create her images. Her current body of work is a fine art documentary project exploring wildlife and habitat loss due to suburban development.
Her work has been exhibited in numerous juried and non-juried exhibitions and has received a number of awards including Artistic Distinction Award, ‘Light Is All’ exhibition, Stone Voices Magazine; Honorable Mention, 2012 Photography Competition, Artist Portfolio Magazine; Finalist, 2013 International Fine Art Photography Award, Grand Prix de la Découverte; Honorable Mention, 2013 American Art Today: Figures Exhibition, The Bascom, Highland, North Carolina; 2013 Hallberg Merit Scholarship Award for artistic achievement; Best Photograph Still Point VII Art Exhibition and Finalist (3 images) 2015 7th Edition of The Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers; 2016 Berlin Foto Biennale, 4th Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography in Berlin, Germany; 2018 Perspectives Exhibition, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; 2018 Master of Fine Arts Summer Thesis Exhibition, Sharon Arts Center Gallery, NHIA, Peterborough, New Hampshire; and 2018 Alternative Processes Exhibition, SoHo Photo Gallery, New York, New York.
Recently her work has been published in the Sierra Journal, Stone Voices Magazine, Still Points Arts Quarterly Magazine, the 7th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers, the Berlin Foto Biennale, Emotions and Commotions across Cultures, and Hawk and Handsaw – Journal of Creative Sustainability.