Fox River Derivatives is an unorthodox form of artistic expression, with the intention of questioning man’s relationship with nature. Photographer Peter Hoffman has an inclination to existentialism, and he repeatedly visits this theme in how we can best co-exist in harmony with our environment, both natural and man-made.
Hoffman normally finds a specific location to express this sentiment, this time it being the 202 mile-long Fox River tributary, which flows from southeastern Wisconsin all the way to Ottawa, Illinois in the U.S. Hoffman is a native of Lisle, a tiny suburb approximately 30 miles west of Chicago, and the Fox River was an easy choice for this project.
Fox River Derivatives uses a strange but interesting technique that drives home his point. The project is ostensibly inspired by the horrific BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It is believed to have released between 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil each day, totaling around 200 million gallons of crude oil ravaging the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days, making it the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Hoffman has since then been toying around with the idea of water and oil. His technique is symbolic of that dreadful accident on the Gulf Coast of México. The negatives are images taken from the Fox River as it crosses both suburban and rural areas. Hoffman used a medium format film camera to shoot the images as he rode a bike up and down the river. Hoffman splashes the negatives with highly combustible gasoline, and then sets them ablaze. Before totally destroying the negatives, he douses them with water to arrest the fire. He then prints these mangled negatives, yielding purple bubbles and streaks of smeared color as a consequence of the heat.
The result is a strong indictment of how the tranquility of some of our most treasured water resources can be utterly ruined by the unbridled quest for oil. It is a strong artistic statement, literal in its expression of how water and oil mix with often disastrous results.
See Hoffman’s Fox River Derivatives project on his website.