Coconino Community College hosts the exhibition Dispassionate Landscapes by Flagstaff photographer Michael Collier and author Rose Houk from Oct. 21, 2015, to April 1, 2016, at the Lone Tree Campus.

From the platform of a small airplane, the land below takes on a new form. Through the years that Flagstaff-based photographer Michael Collier has flown over the Southwest, examples of our industrial footprint happened to catch his eye–when the light, color, and form were right.

Arizona Snow Bowl North of Flagstaff, Arizona

Dispassionate Landscapes features aerial photographs along with text by Collier and author Rose Houk. The 14 images highlight industry’s presence across the greater Colorado Plateau, and challenge viewers to explore and examine these often polarizing land uses in a more nuanced way.

Dispassionate Landscapes’ subject matter focuses on copper and coal mines, power plants and wind farms, and reclamation and recreation areas. Two captions accompany each photo—one discusses qualities of the affected landscape and the other examines the benefits of these industries and activities. The exhibit presumes to judge neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. Viewers are asked to weigh the merits and complexities of starkly differing values, and draw their own conclusions.

Says Collier, “Conversations about society and the environment are too often polarized and dominated by agenda-driven arguments. We hope Dispassionate Landscapes will help open new avenues of thought and discussion. Our greatest reward would be that years from now a young person would mention that he or she went into photography or became a writer because this exhibit inspired them.”

Houk adds, “We will need a new generation of citizens to understand and solve critical land and resource uses where we live. We hope to send students on a path of investigation of the complexities surrounding these issues—so they might arrive at their own conclusions and consider how they figure into possible solutions.”

Dispassionate Landscapes is designed for faculty and students to incorporate its themes into curriculum and field-based learning experiences. It has been displayed at several Flagstaff schools, at Camp Colton, and is on exhibit at Coconino Community College through March 2016.It resulted from a collaboration among Collier and Houk, the Flagstaff Unified School District, and the Friends of Camp Colton. The project is made possible through the generosity of John and Ginger Giovale.

Michael Collier studied geology in college and has also been a family practice physician. He rowed boats commercially in Grand Canyon and now lives in Flagstaff.  Collier has published books about the geology of many national parks and about North America’s mountains, rivers, and coasts. As a special projects writer with the US Geological Survey, he wrote and photographed books about the San Andreas Fault, downstream effects of dams, and climate change. He has also produced websites about oil sands developments in Canada and the U.S., and mobile field trips for Pearson Education textbooks. He is an adjunct professor at the NAU School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability.Potash evaporation ponds above Colorado river downstream from Moab, Utah

Rose Houk is a freelance writer and editor specializing in natural history, history, archaeology, and travel. She has written many books about national parks and monuments; in press are books about early photographers in the Great Smoky Mountains, and Mary Jane Colter at Grand Canyon. Rose is also the author of The Mountains Know Arizona: Images of the Land and Stories of Its People, with photographer Michael Collier. She is a frequent contributor to KNAU Public Radio’s Earth Notes series; she also wrote and narrated the station’s series “America’s Best Idea,” and “Land Lines” with Collier. Rose first came to Arizona to work as a ranger-naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park, where she also served as publications assistant for the Grand Canyon Association. She has been an editor at the University of Arizona Press and National Wildlife Federation, and a daily newspaper reporter.


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