Book review: 'Stormbelt' by Robert Leslie (With essays by Edward Burtynsky and Cameron Sinclair)


In his essay alongside the photographs here, Edward Burtynsky says: “The images in this book ask that we follow the quiet journey of Robert Leslie and his camera through a land where the notion of the unstoppable economy, a land of plenty, the ‘American dream’, is brought into question.” 

Leslie first visited the United States as a child in the 1960s. There seemed to be an endless horizon of energy, enthusiasm and growth. Economically, at that time, the US was more productive per capita than any other country in the world. And one of the major drivers of that economic certainty was the Sunbelt, across the south of the country from Florida to California.

For this project, Leslie travelled more than 10,000 miles between the two states, through the Sunbelt at the height of the recession. Repossessed homes and men with “will do anything for money” signs told the tale, as well as, the impact of hurricanes, forest fires and drought. This entwining of the financial crash and natural disaster had shifted the once promised Sunbelt into the Stormbelt of the title.

The recipient of many awards, Robert Leslie’s work is in private collections and institutions in Europe and the US. From 2005 to 2012 he was chief photographer for the TED conferences (