Au Bout du Monde
Resurrection - Vallée de la Papenoo - Tahiti
As the year comes to a close, I'd like to present two series of landscape photographs, reWILD and Au Bout du Monde, which complement each other in spirit and subject matter, and show polarized visions of the planet. Two possible futures.
reWILD was shot over the last two years in French Polynesia and Au Bout du Monde was taken several years ago during a long road trip across Arizona, Utah and California. Selected prints are now available.
Cathedral of Roots - Banyan tree - Tahiti Botanical Gardens
reWILD is a celebration of the fecundity of nature. A vision of the natural world as dominant, abundant and resilient.
While in Tahiti last year, I saw a healer and as she was working on me she had visions of lush forest with rich verdure. She felt my connection and sense of home there. She didn't know that the day before we had done a trek into the Papenoo valley, running deep into the centre of the island. At a certain point during our walk I let the others continue on because I was so enchanted with a particular place. I felt the need to stay there and try and capture what I was feeling. I had the sense that the forest was alive and emitting its own light. It made me think of animism which is not just the belief that plants and rocks and natural phenomena have living souls, but it is also a way of relating to the natural world. In these photos I try and capture not just place and time, but my subjective experience. The way I relate to these places.
Glade - Tahiti Botanical Gardens
Cloak of Invisibility - Papeete
As a counterpoint to the images of nature as untouched and unspoilt by humans, I also explore urban areas and cultivated gardens and parks where nature is subtly curated and designed. Even so-called wild forests are often the result of imported plants and invasive species mixing with local flora and fauna. Human history is intricately woven with the history of the land, just as the observer is implicit in any photo of a 'wild and untouched' landscape.
Au Bout du Monde
Bryce Canyon National Park - Southern Utah
Au Bout du Monde presents landscapes that are often disorientating in their scale and lack of human traces. Like vast movie sets from post apocalyptic films - or the aftermath of some great reckoning.
I think of the first European settlers dragging their horses and carts across these wild terrains in search of new lives, often fleeing hardships or famine. In these images I see both the End of the World and New Beginnings. The current day resurgence of interest in space exploration and the ambitions of starting colonies on the Moon and on Mars have echoes with these early settlers. This is where we find ourselves today - facing a scorched earth in distress, in search of new beginnings. Could these be places we are escaping from or escaping to?
I think we take comfort from the idea of a world in stasis - in a state of equilibrium. The reliability of the seasons, the monsoon rains, the cycles that maintain life as we know it.
We know this balance is shifting however - creating with it a collective disquiet. It is understandable when we are faced with such global and environmental challenges.
Normal has come to mean irregular, unpredictable and uncertain. We are in a state of transition or bardo, seemingly between one life, or way of living, and another. Amidst our anxiety, bleakness, even hopelessness, are also periods of opportunity and transformation. If seen and seized.
As described in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: "There is no situation, however seemingly hopeless or terrible, such as a terminal disease, which we cannot use to evolve."
Canyonlands National Park - Southeastern Utah
Selected prints are available from both series in different sizes at www.garthbowdenstudio.com
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday, whether reWilding or contemplating the End of the World!
Pack Only Essentials - Southern Utah