How do photographs portray environmental damage that can be difficult to see, much less identify and measure? A first-of-its-kind exhibition, Devour the Land at the Harvard Art Museums uses 160 photographs to explore the profoundly damaging environmental, economic, and social impacts on land and people in the United States brought about by the military-industrial complex.

The exhibition also considers how photography inspires activism in response to these widespread impacts. “The 1970s introduced the public to the image of modern environmental protest. Photographers of that era took up and adapted the activist model pioneered by their predecessors during the civil rights movement,” says exhibition curator Makeda Best. “These photographs show us the everyday people for whom inaction is no longer an option.”

Following a trajectory that originates in the Civil War era, Devour the Land begins with the 1970s, a dynamic period for both environmental activism and photography. From there, the focus expands to our contemporary moment.

Among the 60 photographers featured are Robert Adams, Robert Del Tredici, Terry Evans, Lucas Foglia, Sharon Gilbert, Ashley Gilbertson, Richard Misrach, Barbara Norfleet, Sim Chi Yin, Sharon Stewart, Robert Toedter, Phil Underdown, and Will Wilson.

The museums, open Tuesday to Sunday, are free to everyone on Sundays. Reservations and proof of vaccination are required for all visits.

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Devour the Land is made possible in part by the generosity of the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support for the project is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Publication Fund and the Rosenblatt Fund for Postwar American Art. Related programming is supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.