Photographers have long been drawn to Arizona for its unparalleled natural scenes — and not just the pro’s with the expensive cameras, either. All of us, it seems, have photos taken from atop mountains or the sides of scenic roads.
Much of the subject matter we have in common — saguaros, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Hoover Dam — is on display in “Iconic Arizona: Celebrating the Centennial with Photographs from the Center for Creative Photography.”
The show, which opened last month at Phoenix Art Museum, provides a road trip-styled tour of places and landmarks that make Arizona unique, as seen through the eyes of some of photography’s most famous names: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Aaron Siskind, to name three. Arizona photographers David Muench, Dick Arentz and John Schafer are also represented in the show.
But these aren’t just more pretty pictures of a state known for its natural beauty, says curator Rebecca Senf.
“My goal in selecting the individual works was not to show the most iconic photograph but to provide the audience with an opportunity to see how many different ways photographers have approached these same iconic symbols over and over again.”
So while one photographer may treat a saguaro as a plant to be showcased against a natural backdrop, another may present it as a geometric pattern, focusing on its shapes.
“It’s about the ways in which every photographer, every time they point their lens at something, is making decisions and trying to tell us what they see,” says Senf.
That includes all of us amateurs, capturing Arizona with our point-and-shoot cameras. Rather than just admiring someone else’s idea of what makes the state special, the museum wants us to share our point of view. People are invited to submit their own photos that illustrate what “iconic Arizona” looks like to them.
The images are displayed in a slideshow in the gallery, alongside the fine prints in the show.
“Part of what I have enjoyed so much with the viewer-submitted photos is the diversity and the range. There are those beautiful sunset shots, which you would expect, but there are photos of Tucson’s Day of the Dead celebration, of rodeos, of someone’s favorite local bands. This group of photos is a way to define what we as Arizonans see as unique about our state. It really creates a dynamic opportunity for a broader, contemporary view,” says Senf.
Up to 10 images per person may be uploaded for free at www.PhxArt.org\IconicAZ. Photographs will be shown in the gallery slideshow and online.
The show commemorates Arizona’s 100th year of statehood, to be celebrated Feb. 14, 2012. The images are from the collection of The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson, a renowned repository of 4 million archival items and 90,000 fine prints that chronicle the history of photography.