Monday, 7 September 2015

The plain facts: too much wind, too little rain

An enlargement of the photo above showing the double wall of the house, so essential in wintertime.

The meridian in the book's title refers to the hundredth which roughly divides the US in half.  Interestingly Walter Prescott Webb in his classic book The Great Plains prefers the ninety-eighth as the dividing meridian.  To the east there is enough rainfall for crops, forests and industry, look to the west and the rainfall is mostly less than twenty inches a year, fierce winds and sun and an almost flat landscape for hundreds and hundreds of miles. 

Out of this vast Plains country photographer Andrew Moore travelled from the Dakotas down to Texas and took sixty remarkable photos for the book.  What makes so many of his images rather special is that they were taken with a camera mounted on the wing of a small plane.  This enabled him to cover the vast distances easily and land near visual interesting places for a ground shot.  The idea clearly paid off because as well as the aerial shots there are others well away from roads and tracks which a road bound photographer would never find.

I thought the aerial photos particularly fascinating because the Cessna Cub allowed Moore to get close enough to buildings (frequently abandoned) and vegetation to reveal the feel of landscape.  The first photo in the book stretches over a spread and shows a small schoolhouse, built in 1900, set in the brown countryside with no road, pupils went to school by horseback.  Other aerial shots show farms with two or three building and no other structures or trees for miles.  This is more than a book of excellent landscape photos, the human side of the Plains is revealed with images of fracking in North Dakota, pipelines, freight trains, pivot irrigation, cattle farming and some portraits of hardy folk who are happy to live in this rather inhospitable country.

Dirt meridian is a beautifully produced and printed book, the back pages have two essays and thumbnails of all the photos with interesting captions.  Like his 2010 photo book of Detroit ruins (also published by Damiani) Andrew Moore has delivered a fine selection of Plains imagery. 


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