"Every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found.” Terry Tempest Williams It came to me recently that my trips to the desert were pilgrimages. I find the strangeness of the environment and it’s ‘other‘ nature compelling. I see beauty where many people only see bareness and desolation. The desert is a place of contradiction without expectations. The weather changes drastically from season to season, sometimes from hour to hour. I am attracted to the desert because I think it is so different from where I was raised. I grew up in Western New York. My father hated to drive, so our vacations consisted of going to a nearby motel with a swimming pool. In contrast, I love to drive. Last year I drove over fifteen thousand miles on photographic road trips. The road trip as a genre has a long history in American photography. Many of the pictures in this group were taken by the side of the road. My picture making has taken me to the deserts of California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. Every trip was a pilgrimage but also a chance to see what I could discover in unexpected places - to be open for what happened in the continuous present.
In 2015 I decided I should see “The Wall” for myself. So I set out and headed south through the California desert to the Mexican border and followed it all the way into Texas. On the way home I drove on Route 66 in honor of a recently deceased friend of mine who never made the trip. In March, I made a trip to the Mojave desert with a small group of photographers. We stayed at The Desert Study Center in Zyzzx - an oasis that was an religious retreat in the fifties. After a week there, I took off on my own to the Valley of Fire outside of Las Vegas where I had photographed in the 1980’s. On the way home I revisited many places in the Eastern Sierras where I had photographed in the 1990’s. Most recently I took a road trip to Abiquiu, New Mexico to see Georgia O’Keefe’s home and studio as well as visiting some of the sites where she painted. As always: “I photograph to see what something looks like as a photograph.” (GW)