Jan 11, 2011

mountains & Landscape Stories

i moved to Colorado, from Iowa, in 1996. the mountains had been whispering to me for years, so the summer after i graduated from college i packed my Mazda with my bikes, an eclectic mix of mostly worthless stuff, $600, and headed West. not an unusual story.

sport, not art, led me to the mountains then. i decided early that a career in art was not in the cards. i didn't have the stomach for it. it's interesting now to think back on that time and see how similar sport and art are in many ways (maybe this is a subject for another time). but a time comes when the time is right. the motivation is right and the will is there. it wasn't until shortly before i left Colorado for Alaska that i picked up the camera, and for no real reason, i found myself heading out onto the arid ground to the East to find photographs. looking back it seems strange that, photographically, i found more interest in the plains (maybe it was the romance of my Iowan childhood creeping back). photographically i turned my back, but, in life - the mountains were my comfort, my barometer, my compass. i always knew where i was - on the Front Range, getting lost in a maze of country roads, the Rockies were always west. home was West. simplicity.

truth is, after moving to Alaska, i never particularly missed Colorado. friends, of course, but little else. the anticipation of the great land was too great. yet, when we arrived in Fairbanks, it was the thing that was noticeably absent. that feeling of a great mass looming over me was lost. from UAF, on a good day, to the South you can see the Alaska Range but the mass is too far to exact any real power over me.

it became clear to me early on with my project on the haul road, that the Brooks Range would scratch a much needed itch. the Northern most spine of the Rockies, the continental divide, has been the high point of many of my drives North. most times i just stop at Chandalar Shelf, turn off the truck, and thank whomever is listening.

but, i'm always just passing through.

so, why all of this blubbering now about mountains and the past? being in Juneau these past few weeks has been like being with an old friend. a friend that doesn't require any catching up - we just get on with it. we've both changed - she's not the Rockies and i'm a little older, but we're getting on fine.

i'll be honest - i've been running and skiing in the mountains much more the past few weeks than i have been making photographs. just out seeing. trying to see. i'm not sure why i'm so obsessed with place. how we respond to places we love? or are indifferent to? the foreign? that visceral reaction? how home influences us? the need to be objective? seeing past the obvious to something more obscure, yet more universal? how where we live defines us? or if it does at all? or if it even matters or simply complicates?

maybe it doesn't mean a damn thing. i don't have answers - its a lot to think about.


i'm catching the ferry to Haines on Sunday, then up through Canada, and finally over to Fairbanks. leaving the relative warmth of the Southeast for the grip of the interior. i'm anxious to hit the road again.

our move South led me to miss announcing the latest installment of Landscape Stories. so much challenging work here that doesn't entirely lean on place, and lives somewhere else.

See Julia Cybularz's work The Mathematician

© Julia Cybularz

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