Outside Hopi

Once I got back from Arizona I felt the work I had done there was a shambles.  Nothing of result.  Just a bunch of photos of nothing.

Initially the idea was to photograph the Hopi and their planting process, which has for a millenium been the same.  Except for the advent of tractors and modern farm equipment in the 1950s the Hopi have used a planting stick and corn seed as their ancestors have.  But now, stuck in a stubborn drought and seeing a way of life that was hard, but gratifying and common disappear slowly, the Hopi tenuously hold onto the vestiges of an agricultural way of life from a bygone era.

I had to find farmers that planted traditionally and focus on their way of life and the landscape that surrounds them.  Using no contemporary irrigation techniques, the Hopi have relied on seepage from the naturally occurring aquifers in northern Arizona.  Along with the prolonged drought that has hit the area, the coal mining on Black Mesa has effected the Hopi farming practice as well.  Peabody corporation in their thirst for coal and profit, operate the largest strip mine in the western United States on Black Mesa.  The mine was temporarily shut in 2004 only to see it partly re-open in a limited capacity recently.  The mining operation depended on the coal being mixed with water to create a slurry which was shipped via a pipeline to the Mohave Plant in Lauglin, Nevada, the west’s dirtiest power plant in 2003 according to the Sierra Club.  The plant shut down after the Black Mesa mine was shut down in 2004.  However, the water used from the naturally occurring aquifer underneath Black Mesa depleted the lifeline of the Hopi farm.

This was the back drop I was to work with.  Of course no access meant no story but while I was waiting for permission to shoot inside Hopi I opted to shoot around the territory, showing how the desert has been changed, adapted and transformed into something of use and waste at the same time.

Once I got back to London I opted to shelve the story for the time-being and work only on Minescape.  Adam Broomberg remembered that I had intended to shoot in Hopi though and asked that he look at what I had.  His reaction prompted me to dust this project off and take a look.  He felt that I should use my greatest weakness (no access) as my greatest strength with this particular story.  He said that if the Hopi were not going to give me access, if they were to deny the use of a camera in their lands, that I should follow the lines that surround their territory and see what that looks like.  It’s better to use your imagination as to what inside Hopi looks like than to have a concrete image of what it truly is.

I’m going to run with that for a while and see how it goes.  The rainbow from yesterday can be placed in the pile of images at the moment, but here is another.

Indian Highway 264 into Hopi.

This is the way into Hopi from the West.  We are still in Navajo Territory at this point, just outside of Tuba City, Arizona.  This is the only main East/West road that exists in Hopi and it traverses by all three of the mesas that comprise the ancestral homeland of Hopi.

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2 Responses to “Outside Hopi”

  1. i love this picture of the road. it sums up the american west to me. it is sort of reminds me of the movie paris, texas.

  2. i want to be there!

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