The Blue Ribbon Award for the Travel Photography Goes to John McCutcheon
September 18, 2012
THE BLUE RIBBON PRIZE IN THE VENTURE GALLERIES TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY CONTEST HAS BEEN AWARDED TO JOHN MCCUTCHEON.
The road West is straight – and long – as it aims toward the distant peaks of Monument Valley, spilling across the border between Arizona and Utah.
The view is unbroken.
The clouds and the sky have become part of the scenery.
It is a memorable photograph from the camera of John McCutcheon.
It is the classic road scene.
More than any other, the photograph is an enduring symbol of travel across the great American West.
The landscape of Monument Valley is a blending of reds – darkened by the shadows of clouds that move silently across the desert floor and highlighted by reflections of the sun. Its good earth is scattered with yucca, juniper trees, Russian thistle, and Navaho tea.
It has been swept bare by time and the winds.
It is empty.
For so long, it was empty.
Archaeological traces and rock art have been left behind by the Anasazi people who came to the Valley more than nine centuries ago.
In the 1300s, the Anasazi vanished.
The tribe abandoned the land.
And it was empty again.
No one left footprints on the sands of Monument Valley until the Navajo came, and the region is now a reservation firmly in control of the Navajo Nation.
Some believe that the Valley continues to offer the most definitive images of the desolate, yet inspiring, Western landscape. For years, it was the private domain of director John Ford.
The landscape was as important to Ford as the story.
The landscape was the most memorable of all the characters in his Western films, with the possible exception of John Wayne.
So many of his movies transpired in the flatlands and among the wind-carved pinnacles and buttes, some of them rising for a thousand feet above the broad expanse of desert.
A hiking path loops around West Mitten Butte. And a seventeen-mile drive twists through the cliffs and mesas, moving past the famous Totem Pole, a spire of rock that is 450-feet tall and only a few meters wide. The road is dusty and steep. You can drive it yourself. Or Navajo guides provide tours through the most scenic venues of the nine-thousand-acre park.
The Valley is barren.
It is beautiful.
It is a moonscape.
It has been fifty million years in the making.
The road toward Monument Valley seems to run forever, and the stories never end.
THE WINNER OF THE MOUNTAINSCAPE AWARD FOR THE VENTURE GALLERIES TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY CONTEST WILL BE ANNOUNCED WEDNESDAY.