Follow this link to my Kickstarter for "The Fortieth Parallel" project.
The Fortieth Parallel
“Through the white snow-gate of our ampitheatre, as through a frame we looked eastward upon the summit group; not a tree, not a vestige of vegetation in sight,-sky, snow and granite the only elements in this wild picture.” — Clarence King, Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, 1872
"Place and people are made familiar to us by means of the camera in the hands of skillful operators, who, vying with each other in the excellence of their productions, avail themselves of every opportunity to visit interesting points, and to take care to lose no good chance to scour the country in search of new fields for photographic labor."
— Attributed to Timothy O'Sullivan, Harper's New Monthly Magazine Vol. 39, Issue 232 (Sept. 1869)
The “Fortieth Parallel” is a panoramic examination of precise yet arbitrary places found along this important parallel of latitude across the American landscape.
As the baseline for surveying the Kansas and Nebraska territory, the 40th parallel defined the settlement of a large part of the western United States and a portion of it was surveyed in the 1860s by Clarence King with photographer Timothy O’Sullivan. Using contemporary GPS technology together with an 8x10 camera, I have been photographing this line of latitude across the U.S. at every whole of degree of longitude. There are 50 of these confluences on land and the parallel roughly bisects the county, running from the New Jersey shoreline to Northern California. At each intersection, there is approximately a 20-square foot area in which I can compose a view. The format unites the project’s form and content, aesthetically and philosophically, and emulates a person’s entire field of vision. Not wanting to re-make O’Sullivan’s pictures or simply record topography, I see the project instead as a personal survey and one that engages the nature of how humans circumscribe and conceive the world.
This series unites my interest in mapping with conceptually-based art practices and references several “histories”—my father’s history as a surveyor, my interests in maps and systems, the history of the mapping of the U.S. and photography’s role within it, and the history of GPS and locative technologies. Begun in 1998, before GPS selective availability was lifted, this project was completed in 2012. By documenting the seemingly random terrain found at these intersections, I invite the viewer to consider the history of landscape, land use, and the built environment as well as their own relationship to place.