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Smog Lake City

Local photographer brings attention to Utah air quality issues.


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  • Cat Palmer
When photographer Cat Palmer wanted to put together a project to draw attention to Utah air quality issues, there was a time-sensitive component to help promote an upcoming event. But would the backdrop for the photo cooperate with the theme?

  • Cat Palmer
"We shot on Saturday, Jan. 12," Palmer says. "Thankfully, the air was just as shitty as it normally is this time of year.  We didn't have to Photoshop that smog; that was just what the day looked like."

Reducing the frequency of such days is a goal of SLC Air Protectors, an organization with which Palmer has gotten involved over the past year. This photo project—titled "Smog Lake City"—brought together a baker's dozen of what Palmer describes as "badasses of Smog Lake City," reminiscent of other iconic Palmer photos like The Last Supper, to help promote the Clean Air Solutions Fair at The Gateway on Jan. 19.

Some of the badasses are familiar faces—like Radio From Hell co-host Bill Allred, broadcaster Mary Nickles and Salt Lake Tribune political cartoonist Pat Bagley—but others are activists who have been involved with Air Protectors and other environmental causes. Among them are Zest restaurateur Casey Staker, visual artist Stephani Wolf and local Sierra Club president Lindsay Beebe. The group gathered at a park on 11th Ave. overlooking downtown Salt Lake City for just 30 minutes, providing striking images of the group in gas masks.

Palmer hopes the image helps inspire people to attend the Clean Air Solutions Fair, where they can learn more about changes they can make personally to impact the environment (and get a photo taken while wearing a gas mask). Being involved with SLC Air Protectors has already led Palmer to make many changes in her own life. " I drive an electric car now," she says. "I don’t get the case of water bottles from Costco. Being a part of this has helped me see a lot of things I could do, how wasteful I’d been for convenience purposes."