I’ve just returned from a trip to the Colorado Plateau, my third since getting my camera. The canyon and mesa landscape is amazing, but most of my interest lately has centered around the ancient remains of human habitation, and their relationship to the landscape. I’ve focused on the small settlements and structures, and haven’t even been to larger sites like Mesa Verde in many years. My reasons: the small ruins are not on maps, there are no crowds, and the hiking and searching for them is a large part of the enjoyment.
The ruins evoke many thoughts and emotions. The image above, with parts of the structure shattered by falling rock from the cliff above, is one I find poignant. Despite the metaphorical implication, however, it is not true that the Anasazi world collapsed in some mysterious cataclysm; rather, the depopulation of the area some eight hundred years ago was more likely a response to drought and the conflict it led to.
Although people were more numerous in the area then than now, it is hard to resist viewing their existence as fragile. From our perspective, lacking knowledge of how they conceived their environment, they seem to have been at the mercy of natural phenomena. A cork at sea does not seem a fitting image for this arid setting, but somehow the rock surrounding a ruin near that first one suggested to me storm-driven waves. Below are photographs at three scales showing progressively more of the rock matrix that holds the dwelling in its grasp. Perhaps I’ve primed you too strongly by talking about it already, but does any one of them give you the impression I’m describing? Which version seems most powerful to you, or most compelling for whatever reason?
Like last year, my first glance over my new image trove had me cringing in disappointment. Nothing looked as great on the screen as it felt at the time I was photographing. If experience is a guide, however, I’ll feel better about it later. In fact, looking over last year’s images before leaving this time, I thought there were quite a few strong pictures that just needed some attentive effort. Somehow I never found the time… I hope I do before too long, and I’ll be showing more from this trip in future posts.