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Photographer Troy Bennett's Communication Towers offers a clear signal

For photographer Troy Bennett, the human response to the changes technology is rendering in our world is a little like cooking a frog.</
"They say you can boil a frog slowly," Bennett begins, in one of his several natural-world analogies to explain the truisms of the human-made world.</
An instructor in Web design at the Art Institute of Atlanta, Bennett speaks in the steady, persuasive manner of a teacher comfortable with the certainty of his observations. His hands jammed into his pockets, offering the occasional professorial encouragement ("That's a great question!"), Bennett lays it all down.</
"If you throw a frog in a pot of hot water, it will jump out," he says. "But if you put it in a pot of warm water and slowly warm it up, it will let you boil it."</
We are undeniably the frogs in Bennett's parable. And someone is turning up the heat.</
The case of the passively cooked frog is illustrative for residents of the 21st century whose world is changing so steadily and stealthily that many may not be attuned to what it all means in the long term.</
"Just in the last 20 years, the world is a completely different place," Bennett continues. "And the way people communicate and are connected is vastly different ... we're almost to the point where we can't fathom not having e-mail, a cell phone, text messaging.</
"What's going to happen in a hundred years when that is just embedded and ingrained in our DNA and we don't function as individuals any more? [When] we have to function as a collective?</
"I think our next step in evolution is not as individuals but as a collective, a global totality. You see some of this in things like ants and bees and other swarm-based animals. As time goes by, we're becoming less self-sufficient as individuals and more reliant on each other and society and civilization.</
"I think civilization is our next organism."</
In 2006, Bennett had his first solo show at Castleberry Hill's Get This! Gallery, which began his visual articulation of this communal, communication-dependent reality. The exhibition featured his clean, minimalist digital photographs of the kind of utility poles that define the modern landscape, so ubiquitous they have become almost invisible.</
And while the utility poles – with their wooden supports apparently going the way of the 8-track and bloodstained wedding nights – the communication towers he has begun to document are a different story.</
"These things are popping up like mushrooms on a wet spring morning," Bennett laughs.</
Bennett's latest body of work, which runs through Oct. 13 at Get This!, continues his interest in the physical evidence of our communication jones.</
Communication Towers features 14 photographs of individual and occasionally grouped cell-phone, radio and broadcast towers. Bennett photographs the towers and then Photoshops out extraneous details: trees, competing poles and other meddlesome distractions. He then "de-saturates" the color tones to achieve the industrial, taxonomical quality of the work. That quality is inspired in large part by the graphic, otherworldly macrophotography of plant life seen in turn-of-the-century Berlin photographer Karl Blossfeldt's work. In Bennett's carefully controlled photographs, backgrounds become uniform – the better to draw the eye to the towers that pierce the sky with a definitive, almost sentient sense of purpose.</
Finding suitable towers isn't difficult; friends, in fact, have begun to call and e-mail in their recommendations of particularly pulchritudinous poles.</
"There are people," he notes, "who are suddenly enthusiastic about scouting these things out for me."</
Bennett says the difficulty comes in actually photographing his prey.</
"Sometimes it's in the middle of the street, and I have to get someone to keep an eye out for me when cars are coming. Sometimes I have to climb up on top of things."</
He has occasionally used his 12-year-old son (Bennett also has an 18-year-old son) to act as a spotter while he takes his shot.</
A New Hampshire native, Bennett came to Atlanta in 1998 to teach at the Art Institute after earning a master's degree in photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a painting degree at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Like many artist émigrés to the city, Bennett seems to have found partial inspiration for his body of work from the arresting banality of the city's landscape. Visual artists from Gretchen Hupfel, who photographed the city's air traffic and radio towers, to J. Ivcevich, chronicler of train yards and industrial zones, have also profited from Atlanta's lackluster architectural profile and found its identity in the workhorse structures and places most overlook.</
As our physical and philosophical reality becomes increasingly defined by the Internet, cell phones and the media, it becomes the artist's role, Bennett says, to record these changes.</
"I'm not judgmental about it," he says. "It's something I'm observing."</
Perhaps those observations will encourage someone to escape the stew pot before it's too late. Or maybe the human race is just destined to change in form. To use a Bennettian animal analogy, perhaps like those fish who sprouted legs and left their watery homes, we, too, will simply evolve to fit into this brave new world of our creation.














































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