Death Valley, CA, 2009

Death Valley, CA

My mother would sometimes ask, “What is it?” when I showed her a picture where the subject was not easily recognizable. Contrarian that I am, I replied, “It’s a photograph, Mom.” (Hey, she made me.) Of course, what she wanted to know was what was the original subject I had photographed, and what I was trying to say, inelegantly maybe, was that it did not matter. Either you like a picture, or you don’t. More information might make it more significant in some way, but that’s not the same thing as liking. I remember many years ago, making a print sale from an exhibit, of an image that was just swirls of yellows in varying intensities, and asking the buyer if she wanted to know what I had photographed. She said, “No.” Great answer. Photographs like that one take on an abstract character because some technique has been used to blur the definitions of a recognizable subject or scene. But sometimes the abstraction is created simply by Point of View. The photograph above is a literal landscape shot of Death Valley, made from Dante’s Peak, looking west, down into the valley. The top third or so of the frame, all blue, is the talus slope of the Panamint Range, the western edge of the valley, and the white is the salt flats at Badwater, the lowest point on the North American continent, at 282 feet below sea level.

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