MUSINGS ON:
"GHOST WINDS GALLERY"
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
 
Dorothea Lange


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             "Ghost Rocks" in New Mexico's Bootheel Country
I created this photographic gallery partly as a celebration of the still wild places that struggle to coexist with us humans on planet Earth. Photography has for a long time provided me with a reason to visit and intimately observe some of the out-of-the-way corners of the Desert Southwest. The deserts of the American West have
always been challenging environments for people, animals and plants to call home. The unpredictable extremes of heat and cold and the severe lack of water across most of the Southwest are powerful forces that have inexorably shaped human cultures and defined the limits of life there. But despite these challenges and with the advent of the SUV, well drilling, dam building, air-conditioning, nuclear power, and the application of vast swaths of blacktop and concrete, people have not only survived but overpopulated this fragile and vulnerable space. This human invasion actually began well before I was born but it has certainly noticeably accelerated over the  past couple of decades. Nevertheless, there are still many places to go to reconnect with the natural landscape...and to photograph it.
           Perhaps on behalf of the desert spirits that I know must exist, I have often been drawn to make photographs of places where the drylands are slowly reclaiming their birthright. That is why you will see in this gallery images of old cars or trucks or buildings being gradually swallowed up and eroded away by "ghost winds" and monsoon torrents. For whatever reason I find these places fascinating and deeply moving subjects. They are usually quiet and lonely spots that most folks have forgotten about a long time ago. But somewhere in them is an eternal message that I want (perhaps need) to share through photography. And for me at least they are beautiful, powerful and exquisite in their state of weathered deterioration where their souls and weaknesses are exposed for the lens.
           Images presented in "Ghost Winds Gallery"do not necessarily respresent what I would consider to be my best work. Rather, what is presented here is a somewhat  haphazard non-chronological collection of images that meant something to me when I made them. Of course each image holds within it a back story that maybe only I can really relate to. In my early days as a photographer in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I made virtually all of my images using negative film and transparencies with equipment ranging from 35mm and medium format cameras to 4x5 view cameras. Since about 2003, however, I've shot entirely in digital format, which I believe has evolved to the point where it easily rivals and sometimes supasses film qualities. And it is infinitely more transportable and flexible in terms of post-image processing. That said, it is clear to anyone that has ever used view cameras that the art of studying a scene and really examining it carefully and waiting around for the right light prior to setting up is almost totally lost by the comparatively impatient modern digital photographer. I must confess that I have fallen under the spell of the gratifying instantaneous visual feedback that digital offers. In fact I'm not at all certain that I would be able to return to large-format film cameras with the passion that I once felt for them. Nevertheless I do miss them and the meditative quality that they forced upon the operator. In the pre-digital age, you had to be totally focused on the subject, the changing light and your bulky complicated equipment to make things work. Nowadays, you can switch to auto and simply pull the proverbial trigger with few if any concerns about whether your exposure will be accurate. Like most human tools, photography is at its core based in technological ingenuity and advancements; and its form will no doubt continue to evolve in concert with new discoveries in optical physics, electronics, chemistry and materials science. What will likely not change any time soon is the human mind and spirit embodied in every image that is made and the fundamental desire to trap a fleeting moment in time and space that is illuminated by a friendly star...Harry Ridgway

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All images in "Ghost Winds Gallery" are copyrighted by Harry Ridgway and may not be shared or reproduced without prior written consent.