Response to Observations in an Occupied Wilderness by Terry Falke

by Zoë Gleitsman and Akari Stimler

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This book contains a large collection of color film photographs taken in the late 90s-early 2000s of the American South-West. The images portray the stunning colors and unique landscapes that are common in this region of the United States. Terry Falke has had a deep interest in this area for quite some time, and through these photographs, he seeked to portray a relationship between humans and their environment. Specifically, he focused on the desolate desert landscapes of the American South-West. Although none of the images have human subjects, the various structures and composition give each image a human presence.

The collection of photographs in this book are an interesting mix of pure nature scenes and man-made structures intertwined with nature. Many of the photographs are stunning shots of the orange, yellow, and red mountains and desert-scapes that are unique to this region of the U.S. Falke also included many images of scenes that include humans and artificial structures. It’s interesting to see how these structures are placed in this very natural environment. One of the photos that we found to be a good example of Falke’s clever composition is on page 10. This is an image of a plain in New Mexico with a religious advertisement placed next to an adult video store. This photograph seems to directly represent Falke’s intention for this book. The name of the book and the photos in the book are juxtapositions of man and nature, just like the Jesus ad and adult video store are. This truly sheds light on the interesting and very contrasting habits and characteristics of the people who live in this region.

Because we’re both New Yorkers born and raised, the type of setting that is shown in this book is very unfamiliar and fascinating to us both. Even though a large portion of the U.S. looks fairly similar to the environments shown in these images, we are stuck in a nearly 100% man-made bubble. We find these scenes to be beautiful yet lonely and stuck in time. Our city is constantly being updated and modernized, so looking at places that appear very untouched and may seem mundane and normal to a lot of people, is actually very visually interesting to us.

Falke did in an incredible job of photographing this stunning and unique region of the world. He also was able to very comprehensively tell a story and convey his message through these beautiful color photographs.

Akari Stimler and Zoë Gleitsman are Spring 2016 interns at the ICP Library as well as ICP Teen Academy students.

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