As I prepared for my artist in residency program at Zion National Park last September, I faced a daunting challenge. More than three million people visited the park the previous year, most of them with a camera. Legendary photographers have captured this extraordinary place. What could I offer to the visual conversation that was different?
I read the original 1916 congressional act giving the National Park Service two mandates that are sometimes at odds with each other: “to conserve” and “to provide for the enjoyment of” our national treasures (often through development). Striving to capture this delicate balancing act on film became the driving force behind my month in Zion.
I chose to use a Hasselblad XPan II panoramic film camera. The long, narrow frame lends a cinematic feel, but the 16-year-old camera did not allow me to see what I shot each day. I only saw the shots after I processed all 105 rolls of film when I returned home. Thankfully, all the planning and detailed mental notes during hours of hiking produced many images that unexpectedly lined up together.
Each of these diptychs pairs similar or contrasting images of both natural beauty and humans interacting with nature. I hope the combination says something greater than either image could say alone.
Photo: More than 2,000 feet above Zion Canyon, a bird whips past Observation Point free to ride the currents and drafts, while a rock climber is suspended in a slot canyon of Zion’s Kolob Canyons.