Mark Klett, Panorama of the Sierra from above Mono lake including three views by Timothy O’Sullivan, 2011. Inset left: Timothy O’Sullivan, Near Mono Lake, California, 1868 (half of stereo plate). Courtesy National Archives. Inset center: Timothy O’Sullivan, Mono Lake, California, 1868. Inset right: Timothy O’Sullivan, Remains of old volcanic range, 1868. Unmounted albumen print, collection Mark Klett (Phew!) excuse the poor image - I couldn’t find a better reproduction online, so I made a quick image of my book.
In light of quoting his entire essay, here is the final paragraph from Mark Klett’s Essay titled Seeing What O’Sullivan Saw in the book TIMOTHY H. O’SULLIVAN. The King Survey Photographs. It is suffice to say I really really enjoyed reading it, and you should go read the whole thing yourself too!
Returning to Mono Lake is, I think, the ultimate tribute to O’Sullivan’s work: the pictures he made are still worthy of our consideration, and they inspire us to make our own. They describe places that we know and care about. They deliver to us the long-lost view of a land that is now our home, places that are at once familiar and forever changed. They bring to us an intelligent, engaged view of a land that endures, in spite of the years. The clarity of his vision causes us to reflect on our own time and on our own views. O’Sullivan’s representation of himself as a participant in a journey engages us in an awareness of our own. The photographs become artifacts of a common place, and as we view them across time we create a new vision. We become the makers of a new landscape.
Two recent books of photography wrestle with the tension between official forgetting and the populist urge to remember.
“The Half-Life of History: The Atomic Bomb and Wendover Air Base” by the photographer Mark Klett and the writer William L. Fox (Radius) focuses on the Utah airfield where the Enola Gay was prepared before it flew to Asia and dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Wendover was deactivated in 1949, and most of it has been in decay since. “Chernobyl Zone (I)” by the Russian photographer Andrej Krementschouk (Kehrer) ushers us into the restricted zone around Chernobyl, where Reactor No. 4 melted down in April 1986.
When governments choose to forget — whether consciously or not — they make places restricted, create blank lands of secrets. And those places end up haunted, as truth, memory and the official story struggle for primacy. (New York Times)