On Moving Forward

Charles Waters State Park, MT  ©David Gardner

Charles Waters State Park, MT ©David Gardner

This trip through the upper western states is a bit different than most of the trips I’ve done durning the past 3 years. I have no special agenda for photographing this time around, although I am continuing to work on “Marking Our Place”. All of my  previous excursions have been with the “Marking” project in mind; looking for those places where people have interacted with the landscape in some way. When I began this project, I felt there should  be an end to it at some point. I feel differently now. The longer I look and find places that I think work well for the project, the more I see that it just doesn’t need to end. In fact, I see it getting stronger as I find places that convey my ideas more clearly. I can see how some of the themes I covered could be spun off as a sort of new stanza or canto (thanks RM). I am scaling back how much I shoot for it however. It will continue to be in my mind as I move through the landscape, but not be the main objective.

But that leaves me with the quandary of what to do next. I want to use this trip as a vacation of sorts. I want to just react to the landscape and keep open about how to to engage with it. In these past few years, I have become much more sensitive to how I (and we) relate and interact with the landscape. So I want to trs to portray the landscape that could reflect this in a new way.

National Bison Range, MT  ©David Gardner

National Bison Range, MT ©David Gardner

Traveling up I15 in Montana the other day, we drove past a certain spot on the highway that got me thinking about how the west is perceived today. What I saw off to the side of the road was a rather moving view of a bison at the crest of a hill. In my mind, I saw a deep red sunset with the animal silhouetted against the sky. Such a cliched notion I know, but moving none-the-less. As we approached, it was clear this was a buffalo cut-out stuck into the ground at just the right spot.

It was an advert for a dude ranch of some sort. But it started me thinking more about perceptions. I was born and raised in the west. I got my first exposure to the outdoors here in the west. I have been lost in the wilderness of the west. I have strong ideas of what this place is and where I fit in it. But when I see things like the bison cut-out I think, “It’s a myth”. It is not what this place is anymore. The only bison you will see is on preserves or in national parks. It feels like we hang on to these myths instead of acknowledging  the consequences of our actions.

Peak of Church, Bannack Ghost Town, MT  ©David Gardner

Peak of Church, Bannack Ghost Town, MT ©David Gardner

So I want to explore the notion of myths of the the west. If I can find images that convey this idea in ways that perhaps haven’t been seen before, maybe there is something to say here.

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