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Arizona Landscape
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© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Frederick Sommer
American, Arizona, 1945
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 9/16 in.
94.XM.37.87

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For years I looked at the Arizona landscape and it seemed almost a hopeless task…. What was the difference between the top of the picture and the bottom of it? It was all the same…. These were enormous areas, but still there were details…. There's nothing happening in the sky and I decided, 'No skies for me.' Finally there was no foreground, there was no middle distance, there was nothing. And, there was very little distinction between the plants and the rocks. Even the rocks were struggling.

Thus Frederick Sommer described his initial difficulties in photographing the barren Arizona landscape. Cacti rise up intermittently from the arid ground like ritual markers, as Sommer's unusual perspective and meticulous framing redefine this horizonless desert landscape, a terrain at once both ancient and contemporary.