Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Nevertheless there are certain peaks, canons[sic], and clear meadow spaces which are above all compassing of words, and have a certain fame as of the nobly great to whom we give no familiar names. Guided by these you may reach my country and find or not find, according as it lieth in you, much that is set down here. And more.”        Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain

Moving through spaces, sending out signals, capturing data, inscribing the shapes of inter-relationships in which knowing ventures out or returns: this is Geography Walking.

Palouse Mntns

It was a mistaken landscape affinity that led me to contact Alec Finlay. Then an affinity for walking and photographing landscapes put me on the path to assembling the pieces that comprise Palouse Mntns. A word-mntn is the poem-label Alec makes – a tag with a string, printed on paperboard, with the name of a vertically prominent geographic feature written in a simple geometric shape. For Alec, this reminds us that “a hill is not its name” (you can read his essay and see his photographs here).

I made several excursions with camera and the labels Alec had mailed me with names of various buttes and mountains along the Washington/Idaho border, many unfamiliar to me by sight or by name. Like Alec, “The purpose of the hand-written place-names was […] to sketch an initial understanding of the terrain.” While his project  - with many excursions through different parts of Scotland - emphasizes distance, the process of “clarifying the skyline into names,” my own experience with photographing the labels got me thinking into the terrain underfoot as a site of relations.

Scroll Down to See the Excursions:

Palouse Mntn: Kamiak Butte II (June 6, 2013)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Palouse Mntn: Kamiak Butte II (June 6, 2013)

On Kamiak Butte, situated almost 1000 feet above the rolling wheat- and lentil-fields of the Palouse, rocky sage-covered desert terrain abuts open wildflower meadow abuts forest of Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir and Cedar. It’s a National Natural Landmark, a county park and popular hiking spot 11 miles northeast of my home, visible in the distance from my campus office window.


What was at hand, and underfoot, and around – bringing it all in close around the poem-label to make portraits (not landscapes) resolving the tension (fuzzy/crisp) between foreground and background that my camera lens often captured.

A lyric portrait, embedded with social relations – the I (behind the camera) and the you (in front of the lens) – like the lyric poem. Kamiak Butte is a social place (runners’ footprints in the dust), a site of human language (in English officialese, in graffiti, and in the universal language of cairns), and of myriad communications that arise from adjacencies, give rise to intimacies: moss clinging to or sprouting from bark, the ladybug perched precariously on the Prairie Star Flower (as I daintily untangled the strings of the poem-label, she tumbled to the ground). The molecular exchange across permeable boundaries, like my skin.