Desert Images: An American Landscape, Edward Abbey (1979)
11 x 17-inch book with acrylic slipcover.
This project idea originally began from Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, which is a book that helped shape my vision as an artist and explorations of photographing human’s relationship to the landscape in the twentieth–twenty-first century. With more thought, my idea then shifted to Abbey’s lesser known collaboration of writings and photographs with David Muench, Desert Images. I found Abbey’s texts and Muench’s photographs to be in contrast in that they suggest to me two different desert landscapes from what I had experienced in reading Abbey, and the desert I see and photograph today.
The Plexiglas case, once removed from the book, is intended to represent the idea of how a photograph is made, the reflection of light from a surface/subject through the lens, which is then recorded with a camera and later viewed on a screen, or in this case printed media in a book. Once the images and text from the book are reflected from the case, the images are backwards, which is how an image is recorded in a camera originally. I intended this as a way to also recreate the images when they were first taken, representing a reversal of text and images visually inverting the narrative. The past, an unreadable memory and also a desert landscape that no longer exists. The image that floats on the front cover is a photograph of how I see the desert landscape as Abbey predicted and wrote about as the future. The photo is placed to interrupt the complete view of the reflected images from the book, integrating itself in the more serene images. The image placement is a play on an optical illusion—a desert mirage/oasis that rests between the book and the reflections. The photograph of an oasis is not of the idealized body of water with surrounding palms, but of an abandoned motor lodge/motel in the desert, the couch no longer a place of rest and comfort with a noose above.
After growing up in Maine and living by the ocean his entire life, Andy Cross has recently left the beach and moved to a quiet hill thirty minutes from the sea. He has traded his twenty-plus years of walks with his camera around the alleys of the beach and the coastal diffused light, and now he is exploring a new altitude with his eyes of San Diego, which he calls the Quiet Mountain. He currently teaches photography at the University of San Diego.