Portraits of the American Wilds


Trump has ordered the review of 27 National Monuments throughout the western US. In order to understand the implications of this, I hope to experience and come to know these lands by visiting 21 of them, documenting them through nature writing and 35mm still photography.

Here you will find writings and excerpts from my journal, and photographs from each monument. These will give a glimpse into the larger body of work to come.

 

 

REVIEW

In the spring of 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that put into motion the "review” of 27 National Monuments located on public lands across the United States. The result of these reviews are as of yet uncertain. They could culminate in a removal of the National Monument status, downsizing of the monument area, or a retention of Monument designation. There has long been contention over the existence of public lands and monuments, with some angling to remove public land status and make the lands private, opening them up to be sold to the highest bidder while others fight to keep the lands intact for conservation purposes. For the monuments that contain natural resources such as oil, minerals, or natural gas, sale of the land could result in large scale environmental change as the resources are extracted.

My approach is immersive, I visit each monument and camp within their boundaries while I work. I have visited 21 of these Monuments, spending about a week in each. Through my time in each I began to learn the natural rhythms of the places, and came to know the organisms that call each monument home.

I write by hand using field recording methods favored by naturalists of a previous age, transcribing notes to journal nightly. I photograph with 35mm still film. Film and handwriting are more cumbersome, though they provide a rawness and emotion to the work that is less prevalent in digital forms.

Below you will find selections from a few of the National Monuments

 
Water seep plant community.jpg

MOJAVE TRAILS NATIONAL MONUMENT, CALIFORNIA

Southeastern California is home to the Mojave Desert, an expanse of creosote bush scrub, dry washes, waterless mountains rich with multicolored stone, and dunes that hide underground aquifers. Beetles, tortoise, and rattlesnake roam the dry lands.

 
lava ropes.jpg

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

In the heat of the south Idaho desert a blackened scar cuts through the land. Sagebrush and bitterbrush are held low by strong wind, the limber pine twisted. Lava shines black and strong in the summer sun.

 

San gabriel mountains, california

Sharp ridges and steep valleys fortify this wilderness from further encroachment by the sprawling cities of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Lancaster, and so many others. The valleys are of sparse shrub, the ridges hold pine, fir, and a few late blooming wildflowers.

 
13A_00461.jpg

Cascade-siskiyou, Oregon

In the southwestern corner of Oregon three mountain ranges converge. The Siskiyous, the Cascades, and the Klamath jumble together in a mess of hills and valleys to create one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States.

 
Sandstone monolith.jpg

Upper Missouri River Breaks, Montana

This protected section of the Missouri River winds rich and brown through central Montana. Bordered by sandstone cliffs of white, hills of sagebrush, cheetgrass, and yucca. Mature cottonwood stands dot the riverbanks.

If we are going to whittle away at the parks, we should recognize at the very beginning that such whittlings are cumulative, and the end result will be mediocrity.
— Newton Drury