Viewed from a disembodied, bird’s-eye perspective, this bleak, skyless terrain seems to expand infinitely outward. Sommer’s unflinching photographic style is at odds with the view of the American West as a fertile and abundant land perpetuated by other artists. In fact, one early critic described Sommer as the photographer of the “anti-tourist West.”
Sommer presents the Arizona landscape as a terrain vague. European surrealist artists and writers, who influenced Sommer, used this term when referring to the frontlines of battle or the outskirts of cities where transients lived outside the standard order of society. The jagged land formations caused by mining also recall the bombed landscapes of Europe, then ravaged by World War II. In this way, the Western terrain is a proxy for distant disasters.
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