A Long Time Too See

(from the catalog of A Long Time To See, Fotografiens Hus, Olso, 26 Oct – 15 Nov. 2000)

Thirty years ago I decided to photograph the desert. I wanted to witness a wildflower bloom – I wanted to see land still wild. I knew that if I waited long enough, I would be there when thedesert came to life. How difficult it was to get there, to find the right place, and to discover a right time no longer matters: what I found there was a fading memory and these photographs: a requiem of hope for desert wilderness.

These are photographs of the California desert were taken during the El Niño spring of 1998. returning to the landscape of my youth, I found the desert greatly changed. These are images of memories, or documents of place of memory. Inevitably, they indicate how I have changed by environmental awareness and the power of place. The images are scanned from 35mm transparencies and printed from digital files, some with little editing, others complied from sequential exposures. All attempt to show a beauty in what I see that’s vanishing.

Perhaps this isn’t relevant, but I went home to California in the winter of The El Niño Spring to be with my Father just diagnosed with lung cancer. It was raining in the desert all the while he was dying so I knew that spring would bring an extraordinary floral bloom. I went first to Meccain the Cochella Valley where dad was born to lay beneath a Palo Verde tree with my very first memory of golden flowers like stars against a deep blue sky and the swarming sound of honeybees.

In order of senority, I thank Edmond C. Jaeger, Grandma Tessie and my dad, Edward Abby and Barry Lopez, and Steve Hartman for showing me the desert.