As one drives and photographs the landscape of the prairie Midwest you cannot but understand that what you see is what you are made of. Every process that brings about us, our works, our thoughts that soar or crash occurs at the interface of this sky and this earth. In the Midwest more than other landscapes, it is easier to sense this. I came to photography after being trained in mathematics and have always recognized a link between the two. The landscape here is insistent upon a set of perfect notions. Volume, plane, line, infinities. Abstractions. Something about the flat and utter openness throws me onto these more than do other landscapes. You make the photographs with rectangles of tone and scatterings of stubble and pebbles and pools and eddies in mud. These we attempt to fix to something abstract and perfect. In photography, as in mathematics it is said that we begin with a language and a method. As we work to fit these to a world, we might ourselves become fitted to it. A good photograph persuades us to look into it for an insight, something truthful. And it is like a good mathematical proof at least in these ways: it makes a page that is mysteriously beautiful; it prefers economy of expression; it is irrefutable.

 

For about half a billion years the place where I live was a shallow ocean. By where I am not sure what I mean. This spot was then much closer to the equator than to present latitude. But the near continental size slabs of sandstone and limestone that underlay this ocean drifted to here and have here set us up. Here it is flat. More recently (in geologic terms) glaciers miles thick moved from the colder north and as they melted deposited their embedded silt and clay upon the stone flat surface and left the rich prairies. As the glaciers receded they left enormous lakes and some of these overwhelmed their embankment and emptied themselves, sometimes in just a few hours. Imagine. These cataclysmic torrents carved river valleys and sculpted topography. This ended (or paused) about twelve thousand years ago and soon after people showed up here. The Mississippian people building their mysterious and magnificent mounds and setting up cities greater than London and Paris at the time. And there had likely been other people before this, perhaps thirty thousand years before. Then in only the most recent moment, Europeans arrived, Christian colonists and adventurers, certain of their right to own and work this land. They pushed aside those who were here. The invaders included my own ancestors, Irish and Scots and Italians arrived to Illinois and the Midwest after being delayed in Virginia and Carolina. Industrious people, ripping at the soil and diverting the waters and delivering all manner of insults. For good or ill we're here now.

 

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