John Gossage, Ten Photographs from the Series “Berlin at the Time of the Wall”, (1982-1993)
"In the decade from around 1975 and 1985, landscape photography changed quite drastically. And John Gossage was at the forefront of many of these changes in attitude. The old notion of the ‘spiritual’ landscape, based on Alfred Stieglitz’s photographic interpretation of Emersonian transcendence - a mode which had been espoused by most of the leading American landscape photographers, like Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, and Minor White - was rejected by the new generation of young photographers, of which Gossage was a part. In the 1960’s, Lee Friedlander had begun to make a new kind of environmental photography which was ironic, skeptical, and focused upon the ordinary landscape most Americans actually lived in, rather than the idealized landscapes of what was known as the West Coast school. But it was an exhibition curated by Bill Jenkins at the International Museum of Photography George Eastman House in Rochester in 1975, which announced a fundamental shift. Although he was not included in the exhibition, Gossage’s work of the time shows him to have clearly been a part of this tendency. It should be termed a tendency rather than, as some have termed it, a ‘school’. Gossage’s work of the time displayed the primary characteristics of the tendency - a concentration upon the ‘man altered’ landscape, a predilection for what most would regard as ‘non places’, and importantly, an apparently objective tone in the work, a coolness and transparency that deliberately opposed the subjective romanticism of traditional American landscape photography. With "Berlin in the Time of the Wall", Gossage has photographed a great capital city of Europe, and photographed it as a historical stage, a theatre of cultural and personal dramas, a place where crimes were committed - the Wall being only the most recent. But of equal importance - thinking of those wonderful, but ‘difficult’ Zone Militaire albums - Gossage also shares the serendipitous willingness to be led off at a tangent, by a muddy path or a straggly tree, and has the ability to conjure meaning out of those ordinary things most people - even other photographers - would pass by. It is the priceless ability to construct blocks of meaning from these insignificant and apparently inconsequential fragments that marks the photographer who is the real deal from the others. John Gossage’s Berlin work will surely be regarded as one of the more significant bodies of landscape work from the 1980’s. It is a fascinating mediation on place, history, politics, and the power of photography - not only to document, but as Henry James put it, ‘give out’ its secrets to the participant at once so interested and so detached as to be moved to make a report of the matter.’"?
—Gerry Badger, From the Introduction to Berlin in the Time of the Wall