Michael Light: Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain

  • Hardbound / 10.5 x 16.5 inches
    53 color images / 136 pages

  • Photographs by Michael Light

    Text by Rebecca Solnit
    and Lucy Lippard

  • ISBN: 9781934435854
  • Trade Edition: $60.00
  • Signed Edition: $65.00


Until 2008 Nevada was the fastest-growing state in America. But the recession stopped this urbanizing gallop in the Mojave Desert, and Las Vegas froze at exactly the point where its aspirational excesses were most baroque and unfettered. In this third Radius Books’ installment of noted photographer Michael Light’s aerial survey of the inhabited West, the photographer eschews the glare of the Strip to hover intimately over the topography of America’s most fevered residential dream: castles on the cheap, some half-built, some foreclosed, some hanging on surrounded by golf courses gone bankruptcy brown, some still waiting to spring from empty cul-de-sacs. Throughout, Light characteristically finds beauty and empathy amidst a visual vertigo of speculation, overreach, environmental delusion, and ultimate geological grace. Janus-faced in design, one side of the book plumbs the surrealities of “Lake Las Vegas,” a lifestyle resort comprised of 21 Mediterranean-themed communities built around a former sewage swamp. The other side of the book dissects nearby Black Mountain and the city’s most exclusive – and empty — future community where a quarter billion dollars was spent on moving earth that has lain dormant for the past six years. Following the boom and bust history of the West itself, Light’s photographs terrifyingly and poignantly show the extraction and habitation industries as two sides of the same coin. Essays by two of the world’s most celebrated cultural and landscape thinkers, Rebecca Solnit and Lucy Lippard, offer resonant counterpoint.


Michael Light is a San Francisco-based photographer focused on the environment and how contemporary American culture relates to it. He has exhibited extensively worldwide, and his work has been collected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Getty Research Institute, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among others. For the last fifteen years, Light has aerially photographed over settled and unsettled areas of American space, pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, human impact on the land, and various aspects of geologic time and the sublime. A private pilot, he is currently working on an extended aerial survey of the arid states broadly titled Some Dry Space: An Inhabited West, and in 2007 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of it. Radius Books published the first of a planned multi-volume series of this work, Bingham Mine/Garfield Stack,in Fall 2009. The second, LA Day/LA Night, was released in April 2011. Light is also known for his globally-published archival works. His first, Full Moon (1999), used lunar geological survey imagery made by the Apollo astronauts to show the moon both as a sublime desert and an embattled point of first human contact. 100 Suns (2003), focused on the politics and landscape meanings of military photographs of U.S. atmospheric nuclear detonations from 1945 to 1962.