This summer the Peabody Essex Museum
(PEM) presents Imprints: Photographs by Mark Ruwedel 41 spectacular black-and-white and color images of dinosaur tracks and ancient human footpaths. The subject of a major book published by Yale University Press and showing now at the Tate Modern in London, Ruwedels work is as visually striking as it is conceptually rich, building on concerns raised by New Topographics photographers such as Robert Adams, and resonating strongly with artists such as Richard Long and Hamish Fulton.
For anyone who loves photography, Ruwedels photographs are not to be missed. He is the sort of photographer other photographers watch, said Phillip Prodger, PEM Curator of Photography. The richness and beauty of his prints commands attention from the start but their jewel-like detail invites repeated viewing. They get better every time you see them.
In these works, footprints appear and disappear, inexplicably descending into gorges, crossing rivers and circling mountains improbably preserved evidence of peoples and animals long since gone from the earth. The passage of millennia is written on the land, and few can read a landscape as well as Ruwedel, one of the countrys preeminent landscape photographers and an unparalleled craftsman with an eye for geologic time.
OUT IN THE FIELD AND BACK IN THE DARKROOM
Working in the rugged tradition of Timothy OSullivan and William Henry Jackson, Ruwedel captures locations so remote as to be nearly inaccessible. Carrying a large-format camera across deserts and high plains, Ruwedel has explored perilous spots beyond maps and cell-phone signals. Rarely, as depicted in one stunning image, the ideal scene is not farther than the edge of a parking lot where dinosaur tracks wait just outside the perimeter of human activity, visible only to those who know how to look.
Back in the darkroom, Ruwedel develops his negatives, revealing astonishingly subtle details from the foreground to the distant horizon. Among the finest printers working today, Ruwedel pushes the limits of darkroom technique and the physical capacity of the human eye and roving spirit to process all there is to see.
Despite their evident grandeur, Ruwedels vistas of the American West transcend documentation of craggy rock formations, wide-open skies and dramatic sweeps of uninhabited land. Far beyond traditional landscapes, the images raise questions about nature, permanence and the meaning of photographic representation.