Future Homesites of “The Falls” at Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, Nevada (2011). [Photo by Michael Light]
Photographer Michael Light has spent the past decade exploring the development of the American West from the perspective of helicopters and light airplanes. On recent flights above half-built resort communities outside Las Vegas, he observed a more literal connection between mining and land development:
[This was] something I’d long suspected abstractly: that the extraction industries and the habitation industries are two sides of the same coin. Seeing entire mountains graded into building pads for gated luxury homes and ‘purpose-built communities,’ only to be left to slowly revert to sagebrush in bankruptcy, was the most naked and skeletal revelation of the speculative habitation machine I’d yet seen.
Indeed, in his photographs of these sites it is sometimes difficult to discern whether you are looking at an abandoned mining operation or an aborted housing development. Only the iconic shape of a cul-de-sac tips you off.