Michael E. Gordon: Denizens

“Nature insists that something shall fight heat and drouth even here, and so she designs strange growths that live a starved life, and bring forth after their kind with much labor” John C. Van Dyke (1901)

The Cambridge dictionary defines a denizen as “an animal, plant, or person that lives in or is often in a particular place”. Structural Saguaro cactus, gangling Joshua trees, and monstrous Munz Cholla: I’ve long been drawn to the quirky and unusual plants of arid wildlands that occupy and often define certain geographic and ecological niches throughout the American West. The often Seussian nature of these characters beckons and haunts my imagination and camera. Like the artist behind the lens, these are highly evolved organisms who have over time and with minimal water adapted to their preferred habitats. But Van Dyke was wrong: the lives of these plants are neither starved nor laborious. Their fine tuning to place over millennia – even if difficult – is just a small part of what attracts me to these amazing specimens. Despite their exceedingly limited range, some of these iconic species are now known around the world. My life’s work is firmly entrenched in the visual celebration and reverence for under-heralded desert environments and their flora.

The photographs were produced with a large format view camera (4×5”) and high resolution digital capture, often using vintage soft focus lenses. All prints are produced exclusively by the artist in hand signed Limited Editions, with exclusive use of archival materials.

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