During my early college years, looking for an escape and adventure, I happened upon a description in a hiking magazine of a mysterious place called Grand Gulch in southern Utah. Ancient North Americans known as Anasazi settled in this area before suddenly vanishing, leaving behind only their stone structures. It was the perfect destination to escape the boredom of school and spend time alone taking pictures. My first day hike into Grand Gulch was as memorable as it was lacking of any serious photographs. I brought home about five exposures of which only two were technically passable, but one struck my imagination. Ruin and Pictograph caught my eye and was the beginning of what has been more than 20 years exploring this area.
There are numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction, that describe the history of the Anasazi much better than I can. My brief explanation of these people is that they were wanderers by nature. As conditions got difficult, due to weather or some other influence, they migrated south and east where their descendants live today. Not really the mystery that some folks hype.
To me the four corners area, and the canyons of the Anasazi dwellings in particular, provide great inspiration to photograph. I have a physical reaction when I am in these canyons. It is not always a pleasant reaction, it brings awe and excitement, but also loneliness and fear. I’m fascinated by the choice to build in these inhospitable locales. I am driven to explore with my camera by the glorious feeling of gazing upon a seldom visited site 8 miles from the nearest road that maybe, just maybe, has some secret to reveal that no one else has seen.
About the Title
Over the years of this project the preferred name for these people has been hotly debated. The most common term Anasazi is Navajo roughly translated as ancient enemies., many feel this term politically incorrect. Hisatsinom is a term used by the Hopi to mean the ancient people. For a while archeologists used the incredibly stuffy term Ancestral Puebloans. I had heard Hisatsinom translated as “those who came before” and thought this conveyed beautifully the mystery and respect I have for this culture.