Sternfeld's 1987 monograph American Prospects succinctly captured the anxious mood that beset the nation between the Carter and Reagan presidencies. Much of the book is set in the West, and its title refers ironically to the diminishing prospects-both physical and social-of the land that once symbolized boundless opportunity. Compared to the bright palette of Stephen Shore and the Southern Gothic of William Eggleston, Sternfeld's style is subdued in the manner of New Topographics photographers Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, and his borderline flatfooted approach perfectly suited the muted sense of apocalypse created at the time by nuclear meltdowns, hostage crises, and gas shortages. After a Flash Flood is one of Sternfeld's most effective images, showing a cross-section of a society perpetually sensing itself on the precipice of disaster. A razor-thin line separates order from chaos, as a typical suburban building complex seems to hover precariously over the maw of a recent mud slide that has swallowed a barely visible automobile. In the larger sense, Sternfeld's photograph is an early distillation of what the critic Mary Anne Doane described as "the culture of catastrophe," which made its first appearance in blockbuster films such as Airport (1970), Earthquake, and The Poseidon Adventure (both 1972) and has flowered in the post-9/11 media moment into the basic structuring element of daily life: perpetual real-time monitoring of the world in anticipation of the next cataclysmic event.