photography from the ground up

In Praise Of Ruins

One of the nice things about living in a dry climate is: things are preserved. They are not washed back to the earth as quickly as they might be in a wetter climate. The desert southwest is famous for its ruins, not only those of the Anasazi, or Ancient Ones, but also of cultures that are more recent. I spend a lot of time making photographs in the desert where I come across a ruin on just about every trip. They may not be as famous as Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon, but they speak of the past nonetheless.

Usually these locations are single dwellings, the remnants of someone’s dream slowly being reclaimed by the earth, but sometimes they are entire villages or settlements that were thriving communities, but are now nothing more than abandoned piles of crumbling adobe and rotting wood. The first two images are of ruins in the Rio Puerco Valley in north-central New Mexico

Many of the more well known and much older sites are of Native American origin. Pueblo Pintado is an outlier of Chaco Canyon and was inhabited from around 900-1250 CE. The image below shows one of the kivas in the foreground and the Great House behind it. The people who lived here were the forebears of the modern day pueblo people

Whenever I am in one of these places, I am overcome by a feeling of kinship with the people who lived and died there. I find myself wondering who they were and what they did to sustain themselves. What were their names? Why did these places fail and fall prey to time and the weather? In many cases, such as the ranching communities in the Rio Puerco Valley, it was overgrazing that forced the inhabitants out. In places like Pueblo Pintado or Mesa Verde, it is thought that drought played a large part in their demise.

This last image is one of twenty-three kivas in the Cliff Palace which was the largest cliff dwelling in North America. It housed about one hundred people in 150 rooms. There are close to six hundred cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park.


11 responses

  1. Great post today. I really enjoyed your photos very much. Thanks for sharing.

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    March 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm

  2. John P. Meyer

    Fantastic images, Jim.


    March 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm

  3. Love these images.


    March 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

  4. So. Beautiful. You are definitely inspiring me to get back into photography! Only problem is: I’ve had three cameras die on me in the past few years… Any tips for iPhone photog? 🙂


    March 28, 2012 at 6:39 am

    • Thanks Angie. I don’t have any experience with the iPhone camera, but I hear they are very good. I’ve seen some blog posts about it and I’m sure a google search would reveal some sites where you can pick up some info. Good luck.


      March 28, 2012 at 6:50 am

  5. Deb Prewitt

    As always, your photos are stunning. I especially love the looking through the doorway photos.


    March 28, 2012 at 7:02 am

  6. As always, amazing! I look forward to your post all the time. You capture some of the most amazing images. Thanks.


    March 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm

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