Meghan Duda

Devil’s Garden
silver gelatin contact print
6 x 24 in.

This land is Your Land. This land is the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument – 1.8 million acres held within the public domain in southern Utah. This work is part of a momentary account of this land, impressions of landscape, space, and time that visualize the presence of light and perspective parallel to experienced reality. They are pinhole photographs that capture a 360 degree view – a distorted panorama of overlapping impressions in which vantage point is eliminated and yet emphasized.

Reminiscent of nineteenth century battle field images, the photographs record the scene of a modern political battle over the physical scope of the Grand-Staircase. Under the umbrella of restoring states’ rights the federal government recently proposed reducing the area of the monument by 74%, and preservationists moved quickly to stop the legislation. It is a clash of perspectives in which conservation competes with economics, that the value of wilderness is not equal to the promise of jobs, and pits the future of public lands against the fate of a dying coal industry. Yet this land knows nothing of boundaries. It only knows about infinite time.

This land is remarkable. It reveals a layered history – geologic, paleontological, and cultural – exposing an unfathomable expanse of time. This series of pinhole photographs aims to record a more immediate experience. Designed specifically for this landscape, the camera is placed directly on the ground exposing the richness of desert life found mainly at a scale below the knee. Unexpectedly, it captures an astounding range of view from immediate foreground to the far off distance. Scale is amplified. Perspective is shifted. The results are simple atmospheric gradations of light that become place and no-place at the same time. Yet these photographic impressions are deeply rooted to their place, recording a brief moment in time of an eternally shifting landscape.

© Meghan Duda