Terry Falke

I recently picked up Terry Falke’s Observations in an Occupied Wilderness at my local Powell’s bookstore here in Portland, Oregon, one of my many home towns. What a perfect place to find such a gem, Portland’s backyard is literally wilderness. Even the Portland metro area, starting with smack downtown, is home to some of the largest urban parks in the country, including remaining old growth forests. Strict urban sprawl restrictions during the environmental movement in the 60s has kept city limits restricted, and wild areas preserved. Portlanders and indeed Oregonians are an outdoorsy bunch, reveling in the wild that is their own backyard.

How had I not heard of Terry Falke before? To think that he walked in the steps of Robert Adams, one of my favorite landscape photographers, in initiating the most modern landscape movement, and here I was ignorant of his work. In a wonderful essay by Carol McCusker, Falke’s work is compared to that of the early environmentalists and conversations, both as the observation of beauty and plenitude in the landscape, as well as the fear of a dystopia that is all too real and possible. In Observations in an Occupied Wilderness, Falke travels around the American Southwest, his home turf, to bring us views and observations of several concerning juxtapositions; the grandiosity of the American western landscape coupled with our desire to “collect” it in the form of tourist viewing platforms, paved with concrete and lined with handrails. As the jacket so eloquently states, Falke photographs “the ‘improvements’ that position visitors within a landscape while simultaneously disconnecting them from it.”

The photographs are beautiful, quiet, eerie, yet not scary. They are a very subtle interpretation of man’s need to control nature, tame it, collect it, present it, and even replicate it. For more information and work by Terry Falke, visit AfterImageGallery here.


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