Southern Utah Portfolios?
I'm just back from my 10 days of photographing in the canyon country in southern Utah. It was my first trip to the area. I have to confess, I've specifically avoided this region because — for reasons I now question — I've always felt it was one of those places that was incredibly over photographed to the point of becoming a compulsory landscape cliché. Being the curmudgeon I am, I tend to avoid the conventional whenever possible. But, at last, I relented and spent the last 10 days photographing in Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase Escalante, and the surrounding area. To say I "scratched the surface" would be saying too much. This area is mind-warpingly full of potential — particularly if you have a 4-wheel drive, which we didn't. On our return, we drove through Zion and I made a few images there, too. Southern Utah has so much to see and so much to do that I now kick myself for having waited so long to visit there.
In fact, I may have been entirely wrong about this area my entire life. For some reason, I've always associated these spectacular desert landscapes with crowds of West Coast school photographers — a mythical army I found myself last week struggling to identify. All week long I was searching my brain for the photographer of the canyons — to no avail. I kept thinking there had to be a photographer who is attached to this area the way Ansel Adams is attached to Yosemite, or Edward Weston to Point Lobos. I know lots of photographers who have made singular images in the area — here and there, a handful of great shots — but I could not think of a single photographer who has published an extensive body of work from southern Utah.
Eliot Porter did a wonderful book called Southwest, but is not specifically limited to canyon lands, and is mostly human environments. Steve Mulligan (LensWork #17) lives in Moab and has published Terra Incognita and Earthworks, but again, his work is more about the desert landscape in general than the canyons in particular. Several photographers have extensively photographed the Anasazi ruins — John Sexton (LensWork #46), Don Kirby, Chip Hooper, and Don Rommes (LensWork #100) come to mind. Of course Bruce Barnbaum (LensWork #63) opened the floodgates to the now ubiquitous slit/slot canyons in Arizona and just about everyone has photograph them. But, for the life of me I could not think of anyone who has a definitive body of black-and-white work of the southern Utah parklands. I know there are probably dozens and I'm just having a mental block, so if someone comes to mind, please bring them to my attention. It's bugging me more than you know.
Brooks' books on photography and the creative process are available in print from Lulu.com, and as eBooks for Kindle or EPUB readers. As one of the membership benefits, these eBooks are available in their entirety to members of LensWork Online via download.