WESTERN STATES: LAND AND LEGACY
WESTERN STATES VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY
I have always been fascinated by the American West. In early 2021 I began planning a photographic cross-country road trip. I mapped out an itinerary that would take me through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, one of my favorite regions of the United States. In October and November of that year, I embarked on a "voyage of discovery." Travelling by car, camping on public and private lands throughout the vast open spaces of the Four Corners and the Great Basin, I let my curiosity be my guide, exploring the landscape, meeting people, and making photographs. Previously, in 2020, I visited, explored, and photographed in western Montana.
My travels took me to Santa Fe, where I discovered an exhibition of photographic prints at the Governor's Palace. The exhibition was titled In Search of Dominguez and Escalante. In 1776 two Franciscan friars, Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, embarked on an expedition to seek an overland route from Santa Fe to Monterey, California. Although the Spaniards did not reach their final destination, the expedition is viewed as among the great explorations in western U.S. history for its documentation of the land and Native peoples of the Four Corners region.1
A second expedition, completed in 2010, was undertaken by photographers Greg MacGregor and Siegfried Halus to photograph in site-specific detail the actual route of the 1776 expedition. The photographic record produced by MacGregor and Halus was published in their book In Search of Dominguez and Escalante. The exhibition at the Governor's Palace presented their original prints.
Viewing the prints I quickly felt a strong affinity to the vision, style, and subjects MacGregor and Halus had captured. In looking at the map of the route Dominguez and Escalante had taken, I realized the trip I had plotted out roughly coincided with their original expedition. This discovery delighted me. For the remainder of my travels I maintained a strong connection with the earlier explorers as I photographed my ever-changing and dramatic physical surroundings and the people who live there.
1. MacGregor and Halus, In Search of Dominguez & Escalante, Museum of New Mexico Press, 2011