Last fall I outlined the trajectory for my thesis research. In a nutshell I’m using photography to introduce slight disruptions into how we perceive the world around us. My hope is to cultivate an experience of wonder, curiosity, visual presence, and critical observation. Some of the work I’ve been doing—The Ave Up Close for example—purposefully investigates places that I wouldn’t default to engaging in visually. This trip was set up to do the opposite.
Havasupai is probably one of the most incredible and unfamiliar places on this planet that I’m aware of. After spending an afternoon there six years ago, the beauty and disorientation I experienced are still a vivid memory. My intent in returning was to use the environment as a sort of experimental sandbox that might spark my imagination in directions it wouldn’t otherwise travel.
Conspirators and Itinerary
Along with me were my wife Liz, and our friend Øyvind. Liz and I flew from Bellingham to Vegas, where we met Øyvind who had flown in from New York. It was his Spring Break and our finals week. Our challenge was to find the canyon, drop somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 feet down to the bottom, survive temperatures ranging from freezing to 85° F for a few days, then make it out alive. The render below from Google Earth shows our trail. As you can see, most of the elevation drop happens in the first few miles.
The land belongs to the Havasupai Tribe who continue to live at the bottom of the canyon in Supai village.
One of the things I began to think about after making this climb five or six times, is how our location and identity are linked. For me it was incredible to let parts of who I am open up in response to the aesthetic and physical terrain where they felt at home.