The University of Arizona Press
160 pp., 2016
A lasting tribute to one of America’s crown jewels.
Death Valley is the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America. Located about 150 miles (241 kilometers) west of Las Vegas near the border of California and Nevada, it straddles an area of about 3,000 square miles (770 square kilometers). A land of extremes and contrasts, it includes Telescope Peak that towers over the valley at 11,049 feet elevation (3,367 meters) and an oasis that provides habitat for the endangered Devils Hole Pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis). Designated a national monument in 1933 and expanded into a national park in 1994, its rugged yet otherworldly beautiful landscape now attracts more than 1,000,000 visitors per year.
Attracted by the distinctive topography and light of Death Valley, Stephen Strom, a renowned professor of astrophysics, began regularly traveling there some thirty-five years ago. His acute eye for abstract, almost pointillist compositions not only reveals the patterns and effects of geologic forces over millennia, but it also takes in the vast, colorful sweep of land and sky as well as the land’s myriad details—volcanic cinder cones and sand dunes, dry lakes and salt pans, colorful badlands and canyons, and pine-studded mountains—that give the area its distinctive and varied character.
Strom’s photographs are complemented by Alison Hawthorne Deming’s original sequence of poems, written for this book, that are as luminous and detailed as the images themselves. And Rebecca A. Senf’s perceptive essay situates Strom’s work within the canon of those photographers who have inspired and mentored him, including Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Keith McElroy, Eliot Porter, Frederic Sommer, and Max Yavno. Death Valley: Painted Light is a book unlike any other about a landscape whose topographic relief and sheer beauty are unforgettable.
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