Imagining Place

These are documentary photographs of a place where I once lived. The intention of this camera work was to express in visual form my feelings for the land. Inspired by the spiritual beliefs of the native American inhabitants who once maintained their environment by traditional wisdom in harmony with its creation, I searched  the landscape like a lost child seeking the comfort of an elder generation. I read about their history. I sought out places where by its look and feel, it seemed that Black Elk might have walked there.

I believe that landscape photography can capture ideas connected to a place. The landscape that I photographed once belonged to a people who believed  in man’s connection to  the land.  The pre- European keepers of this land where not divorced from the spirits of their environment, they believed that all things have an animate nature. That we are not isolated beings, but connected to all things was expressed eloquently before the turn of the century by native American visionary speakers such as Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux holy man who was born in 1862 and so had known the old ways of Great Plains indigenous life. The idea that we are connected to the Earth is both an ancient and a modern concept. When I look at an environment, I see the belief of its inhabitants reflected in the landscape: as Chief Seattle said, what happens to the natural world happens to its people.

The photography depicts remnants of a tall grass prairie – eastern deciduous forest ecotome,  today a fertile and prosperous industrial ecosystem where Minnesota meets North Dakota.  These are the ancestral lands of the Plains Indian People. In this region of the United States, none of the prairie and forest biome remains undisturbed and only a small fraction remains intact due to extensive agricultural development and urbanization. While scattered patches of natural habitat remain it may be possible to rediscover some of the spiritual qualities of this vanishing landscape.  Using camera work as a method of aesthetic exploration, perhaps it is possible for the modern eye to listen for the ancient voices in the land.