"I first took a picture a year and a half before this final one. First they cleared all of the trees and bushes so they could dig holes for utilities and pave the zone. I took this final picture once they had filled the area with houses." —Alejandro Cartagena

The photographs in Lost Rivers by Alejandro Cartagena, part of a larger body of work entitled Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect, interrogate the interdependence of humans and landscape in the face of urban expansion. Although artists and activists alike have focused on the negative impact of urban sprawl since the 1960s, Cartagena's work is unique in its preoccupation with the largely overlooked, irrevocable effects of suburban expansion within a local ecosystem.

The city of Monterrey, at the heart of the Mexican state of Nuevo León, is the third largest in Mexico, with a population of 3.8 million. As it expands outward from the city center in the last twenty years, increased demand for water has necessitated the rerouting of many local rivers and streams, to dams to supply water for the nine cities of the metropolitan area of Monterrey. The regions scarce local rivers have also dried out, as suburbia's approximately 300,000 new houses move closer, destroying vegetation that sheltered and preserved the riverbeds' running water. The images in Lost Rivers provide explicit evidence of botched urban development and inadequate economic policy, even as they reveal the beauty to be found within the spoiled landscapes.

Alejandro Cartegena (b. 1977) lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His work has been exhibited and published internationally, and he was awarded one of two Critical Mass Book Award by Photolucida in 2009.

You may also be interested in: