Many of Mark Ruwedel’s photographs look like stills from old Westerns or even outtakes from military testing footage. His work in the deserts of the Southwest has focused on abandoned homes, train tracks, and empty spaces. In his photographs, the drama of expansion and progress is evident only in its absence. Society came west and kept right on going.
Ruwedel's pictures from Wendover Air Force Base, where the Enola Gay practiced the Hiroshima run, show the ways in which bombs deformed the earth. His images of homes, crumbling under the onslaught of the sun, seem to mock the hubris of living in an arid wasteland, and his photographs of trash discarded by immigrants crossing the border from Mexico hint that it's all one desert anyway. "I'm attracted to certain types of landscapes, very barren, isolated, sort of alienated landscapes," the photographer explained during an exhibition at London's Tate Modern. "I was never interested in what is naively described as 'pure landscape photography.'"
Unlike many other southwestern photographers, Ruwedel is focused not just on capturing the Southwest as a static wilderness, but on documenting what has been done to it by humans and what is being undone by time. The frontier may no longer be wild, but it can seem so again.
Copyright Mark Ruwedel, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York