Stella DeSha Thomas Gallery Canyonography - Photographs by Marden Paul

Interview with Marden Paul

How long have you been doing canyonography? When did you start?

I've been into canyons since 1993.
What kind of equipment do you use? Any special processing etc?

I'm using an old, rugged Nikon FE with 55mm, 135mm, and 25mm lenses. When the spirit haunts me I carry a very sturdy tripod for some long exposures but I've made virtual tripods out of bottles, blocks, books, shoes and pillows when needed. My favourite films are Kodakchrome 25 and Ektachrome 100. Sometimes I use 25 ASA black and white film.
Have your photographs been shown or reproduced professionally?

My pictures hang on the walls of relatives and friends but this is their first gallery appearance.
Why canyons?

When I was a little kid, I’d go into my dad’s briefcase when he came home to see if he’d brought any neat thingamajigs from his lab. I remember being really thrilled by copies of "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" and the neat thought that my dad was an "Atomic Scientist."

In the early eighties, the BBC broadcast an excellent series on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant and pioneering US physicist and director of the Manhattan Project during WW II. The program inspired me to read everything I could about physics in the first half of the 20th century as well as about the people making the discoveries. I was fascinated by the way in which the theoretical and experimental pieces built upon one another over such a short time. When I learned in "Oppenheimer" that so many of these great scientists worked together in Los Alamos, NM I was bitten and I endeavoured to go and see it for myself.

Thirteen years later, with my fine friend Wendy King, we set off to see Los Alamos. We read books, scoured maps, packed the car with vegetarian rations and set of down the highway across North America. What we did not expect was the incredible beauty of the continent when seen from ground level. The prairies were a bit flat—Nebraska is the killer part of the drive—but the people and the sites seen made each moment one to savour.

On our way through the Rockies—we couldn’t believe were in the Rockies after 2 days—we noticed the change in vegetation and suspected that once in New Mexico we’d encounter dry and dusty desert, not the trees and streams (and people) we’d seen so far. But, when we hit the border at Raton N.M., we were surrounded by mountains, rivers, and huge stands of pine, oak and cedar trees. This was not the desert we expected.

Finally, the red rocks and mesas about which we’d read appeared. There were dormant volcanoes, huge rock formations and a sky bigger and blue than ever imagined. Los Alamos remained a significant point in the adventure but the entire Southwest region took our breaths away and has since became irresistible. I've been down 5 times since 1993 and find new scenes, rocks, canyons and rivers each time. But beyond the sites, each trip has been filled with great opportunities to meet people from the region and from all over the world.

Tell us about the time Sven got lost in the Anasazi ruins.

Graham let me travel with his dog Sven as I was by myself on the last adventure. Sven was getting pretty hot in the car so we pulled into Canyon del Muerto Canino to get some rest. Unfortunately, Graham neglected to tell me that Sven read Spanish fluently and, well, Sven must have read the sign, and he took off like Laika in a Soyuz rocket. For the next 8 hours, under the unbearable heat of the summer day, I performed the "Search for Sven." It didn't help that Graham called mid-hike to speak to the dog. I had to imitate his bark for 30 seconds until Graham finished his chat. The funniest part of this adventure occurred when 2 hikers reported me to the Park Ranger as a victim of heat-exhaustion. When they picked me up and carried me away they said anyone panting and barking into a cell phone had been out a little bit too long. When I regained consciousness I was in the ranger tower...freezing in the fridge. They found out I was Canadian and put me in their Igloo cooler room. But where was Sven? Luckily, Graham keeps a transmitting chip in his collar and using the AMS GPS Dog Finder, I was able to locate Sven's blip. With the Search & Rescue helicopter we were able to locate the seat of my car.

See Marden Paul's Desert White and Bryce Canyon, Mostly.
Read the interview with the artist

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