Rory Hamovit‘s photographs from ‘Fortieth Parallel’ retrace the steps taken by the pioneering Irish photographer, Timothy O’Sullivan, whose work for the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel from 1867 – 1872 came to be the first pictures that recorded nature as an untamed, pre-industrialized land. Images created without the use of landscape painting conventions. A combination of science and art.
And while most people have never heard of O’Sullivan they may have seen his famous photographs of the American Civil War and in particular his picture entitled, ‘A harvest of death, Gettysburg, July 1863‘, depicting dead soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. It was to be a defining picture of the war, an image that showed the public that dying in battle lacked the gallantry often represented in paintings and prints.
In contrast, the geological survey took O’Sullivan, led by the geologist Clarence King, close to the northern fortieth parallel, through the territories that would become the present states of California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. The object of the trip being to take pictures that would encourage settlers west. The result led the Irishman to become one of the pioneers in the field of geo-photography.
It’s this journey that Hamovit undertook in 2015. A two week trip retracing the surveys route through this harsh landscape that today is settled, it’s hard edges softened by the American dream. Here’s what Hamovit has to say about his project:
During the summer of 2015 I set off on a two-week road trip retracing the survey’s route. Gone are the frontiersmen, the men who claimed these places for their own and gave them new names. In the Western States there are few feats of strength left, and without the bravado of discovery we are left with the menial tasks of superficial preservation and mouth agape marvelling. What are men now when there’s no masculinity to prove? What do we do when to ‘re-imagine’ means to settle for second place?