When Geography, English, and Art Meet

Slide 9, with tinting, of Henry Peabody’s slideshow as depicted in Enchanting the Desert

Enchanting the Desert crosses a lot of boundaries, including those of discipline. Identified by the author as cultural geography, the project has now been reviewed by a professor of English (Audrey Goodman, Georgia State) in a venue for art and art history, CAA.Reviews.

We encourage you to head on over to CAA.Reviews for the full text, but since you are here, here is a teaser:

Although a printed monograph might have made Bauch’s argument persuasively through chapters contextualizing Peabody’s life and work, annotating his images, and interrogating their implications, the website application—which includes GIS mapping overlays, audio narration, and colorized images—allows for a different kind of immersion and more complex reading. […]

Bauch provides detailed descriptions of how Peabody added color, story, and sound to make the slideshow more enticing for potential tourists. He also offers lively retellings of the adventures of other western explorers, including the “prospector-turned-guide” William Bass, the Kolb Brothers (who set themselves up as resident photographers on the South Rim), and Harvey Butchart (who rashly floated down the Colorado River on an air mattress). […]

Each of Peabody’s photographs is paired with a section of a chapter and a map to orient the viewer in the landscape, and users can listen to Bauch reading from Peabody’s script. Of course, there are many other ways to enter and navigate the site, with many opportunities for close and distant reading. Peabody’s linear arrangement soon yields to Bauch’s spatial plan, created so that “representations of space begin to drive the narrative” (“Spatial Narratives, Part II”; emphasis in original). At its best, the site takes its viewers through multiple time frames and cultural perspectives, digging deep into early geologic and human eras and pushing into the future. […]

A major strength of this project lies in the way it enacts the methodological and intellectual issues at the center of Peabody’s Grand Canyon photographs and invites viewers to engage on their own terms with “the intangible, immeasurable world” these images represent. How do we create mental maps from photographs? How can we transform aesthetic responses into land knowledge? What is the true language of cartography? […]

—Audrey Goodman, Caa.Reviews

Copyright © 2017 College Art Association. Reviews and essays are licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International License

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