This web site has been several years in the making—in part because I underestimated the time that would be involved in sifting through all of the material, and in part because I've gone back and forth about how to organize it. I finally decided that I was over-thinking it and settled on what you see here—which is not long on rhyme or reason.
I often joke that while I stand in the shower each morning trying to remember if I've shampooed my hair, I can recall the making of almost every photograph in considerable detail. I hope you enjoy this body of work as much as I have enjoyed building it. Many fond memories—spanning many more years than I care to admit.
REAR VIEW MIRROR
Images made over the last few months.
A BIRDS EYE VIEW
Though we've not met, Terry Evans has undoubtedly influenced my work. Her book, "Prairie: Images of Ground and Sky," has enjoyed permanent residence on my coffee table for as long as I can remember. Having grown up in and around airplanes, I was particularly enamored with her aerials. A few years ago, a close friend acquired a Cub—the kind of airplane that you can fly backwards on a windy day—doors and windows wide open. I knew immediately what I wanted to go do!
LANDSCAPES: THE PERMANENT COLLECTION
I have lived in the Kansas City area for 32 years now and I am still floored by the number of people I meet who have never seen the Flint Hills—except perhaps in passing on I-70 or I-35. Here we sit, just 60 miles or so, from the largest remaining example of what was once described as an "inland sea of grass" and still it remains (some might argue for the best) a well kept secret.
To the causal observer, the tallgrass prairie landscape might seem mundane—a whole lot of nothing. In fact, the Flint Hills represent one of the most complex and diverse (and endangered) ecosystems in the world—host to more than 500 species flora and fauna and 220 species of animals. But what about the scenery? On closer inspection, the Flint Hills present a richly layered visual landscape that is alive and continually in flux. The Rocky Mountains, as grandiose as they might be, offer two basic looks accented by a fleeting dash of bright color each fall. In the Flint HIlls, it is almost as if each day is a new season. This gallery covers 35 or more years. All of the images have been cataloged and many have published.
I laughed as I typed New Work because "enormous backlog" might be the more accurate description. These are uncatalogued images—some of which are not really all that new! My goal is to get 10 catalogued and relocated each week. We'll have to see how that goes.
Each year Flint Hills ranchers engage in a practice that predates European settlement by more than 400 years—burning grassland for effect. Plains tribes did it, in part, to attract large herds of bison, deer, and other game. Today it is done to maintain pastures free from weeds (including trees) and improve the quality of grasses for the commercial grazing of beef cattle. It is estimated that nearly one-million head are fattened in the Flint Hills each year. The practice of prescribed burning is called into contention from time to time but without it, two things are certain: The value of the grass (in terms of both nutrition and dollars) would be significantly diminished and prairie ecosystem would be lost, in short order, to eastern red cedar and other invasive species.
My first up close experience with burning was in 2010 when my friend, photographer Edward Robison, invited me to join him at a workshop he was hosting in Chase County. This event was seminal in two ways: It was my introduction to Josh and Gwen Hoy— who would become my friends, teachers, and generous benefactors. And though we had met before, it cemented my friendship with Jim Hoy—who I have collaborated with on a number of book projects including The Flint Hills and Prairie Fire.
I am not the first to consider range burning as artistic subject matter (painters Louis Copt and Judy Mackey and photographer Larry Schwarm are the true pioneers) and I am certainly not alone of late. But I don't see myself giving it up any time soon. The smell of smoke in the air is the first sure sign that winter is finally behind us and by the time late April rolls around, I can't wait to be out there—and that has not a thing to do with photography. It is about renewal—of both land and soul.
ROCK OF AGES
Every landscape photographer has a few "go to" spots. I hadn't really thought about this too much until I was sorting images for this project and realized that I have spent quite a lot of time over the years with one particular rock... Clearly, I don't mind making the same (more or less) image over and over again (smile).
You want me to what? Well... I'll do my best. Excerpts from a fun little project.
Continue to Part II of the collection.
STAYING IN TOUCH
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