Art and Design Nature Places

Read River of No Return

Read River of No Return: Photographs by Laura McPhee by Laura McPhee

A magnificent collection of images depicting landscapes and life in one of the last remote places in the American west

The idea of the American wilderness has long captivated artists fascinated by the ways in which its unspoiled natural beauty embodies the nation’s identity. This beautifully produced volume celebrates the unsurpassed splendor of a fabled region, while also presenting the environmental complexities of managing a vast landscape in which the needs of ranchers, biologists, miners, tourists, and locals seek a finely delineated balance.

Photographer Laura McPhee follows in the tradition of 19th-century artistic approaches toward the sublime, relying on a large-format view camera to capture images of exquisite color, clarity, and definition. In images spanning all seasons, McPhee depicts the magnificence and history of the Sawtooth Valley in central Idaho. Her subject matter includes the region’s spectacular mountain ranges, rivers, and ranchlands; its immense spaces and natural resources; the effects of mining and devastating wildfires; and the human stories of those who live and work there. Featured texts set McPhee’s photographs in the context of the work of American predecessors including Frederick Sommer and J.B. Jackson, and discuss her working methods and experiences photographing the evolving landscape.

A beautiful collection of photographs embodying a place and its history. The printing of the photos is good quality so you can appreciate the artist’s work — I love the muted colors. This collection conveys the complexity of the West, a culture and place hanging on. The present bridges the past — a man pans for gold in the tailings from 1800s mining, a decrepit 1920s log cabin becomes part of the scenery for a new subdivision. The photographer coolly shows the impacts of the way resources are used and animals are treated. A hard life, rewarded with stark beauty.

Page of book with photo of a dust trail from a truck crossing a landscape

Light shines through open windows framed by peachy pink curtains against blue walls

Burned landscape in almost pastel pale pink and purple hues

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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