Monument Valley 2002-2017

Monument Valley is located at the four corners region spanning Utah and Arizona on the Navajo Nation Reservation. Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii, the Navajo name for Monument Valley meaning ‘clearing among the rock’, spans five square miles with fragile pinnacles of rock of sandstone that tower up to 1,000 feet. For hundreds of years, the Navajo have raised livestock and farmed small quantities of crops in the valley. Not just a place of habitation and livelihood, Monument Valley has significant meaning to the many Navajo who took refuge in the valley when forced out of Canyon De Chelly by the U.S. Army during the “Long Walk.” An 1868 treaty allowed their return to their ancestral homeland and established the Navajo Reservation. Other parts of Monument Valley have been added to the Navajo Reservation over time. Monument Valley became popular with Hollywood when John Ford’s first of many movies, Stagecoach, was shot there in 1938, starring John Wayne, and making him a star, as well as putting Westerns in a respected film genre.

“Monument Valley is the one place that will always be there for me. No matter the comings and goings of the world’s players, Monument Valley persists, in its own and uniquely quirkiness, delighting me, renewing me, challenging me, simply carving out pieces of my heart, for safe keeping. Thank you, Navajo Nation, for making Monument Valley what it is, without pretense or visible intent to modernize your sacred land. May that Wild West rocky road that drops down into the valley serve as the gateway to something more spiritual, a descent into another time.”

“I come from an earlier era, pre-digital, and have seen no reason to quit the kind of photography that has challenged and nourished me since I began making pictures, in earnest, four decades ago. In that time, I have grown comfortable with film’s limitations, even to the point of embracing them. Now, as then, I understand that the most difficult picture to make, success- fully, is one created with the utmost simplicity. No gimmicks or intellectual overlays or concepts. Just a straight-ahead representation of what I have framed. Look with my eyes first, roughly decide where to put the camera and what lens to use, find the corners of the picture, retreat under the dark cloth, emerge, expose.”

“Most of the time when I’m trying to make a landscape I don’t need to work that fast. I’ll chase clouds and light, for sure, but what I enjoy most is to let the land and sky leak into me, maybe guide me to a picture I might not have otherwise seen. Look with my eyes first, roughly decide where to put the camera and what lens to use, find the corners (got to locate those sometime because they will define the photograph). Retreat under the dark cloth. There’s the image, already 4″x5″ big on the Linhof ground glass, upside down and reversed. You really get the sense of what the picture will be. It’s not a snapshot.” – Kurt Markus

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