continent. The book is shot from a very high perspective. It’s a kind of abstraction and atmospheric meditation.”
He is now at work on the next project in the series, focusing on the residential fringes of Las Vegas, Nevada. “I am not interested in the iconography of the strip. I’m interested in thinking about the domestic desires of Las Vegas as manifested in architecture. It’s California on the cheap. Obviously, the dream’s not holding up so well, but there are many aspects of that life that people have flocked to. Vegas is an easy thing to look down your nose at. It’s vulgar. It’s certainly not Santa Fe, going back thousands of years, the antithesis of vulgar. But then there’s nothing kitschy about one’s dream to make a better life for oneself.”
After suns and moons and gigantic smelter smokestacks, Light appears to have shifted his lens to the domestic sphere. “Well, it’s evolving. I think you can find the large in the small. That’s one of the fun things about working in the arid West. There still is a lot of space. It’s planetary landscape, not just terrestrial-scape, and I’m really interested in that, but at the same time, it’s very inhabited.”
Although he emphasized that he is not interested in lecturing or condemning, Light’s work presents obvious problems in terms of the human on the landscape. And in an interview in the book with Lawrence Weschler (Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University), Light admits he’s “attracted to idealized pastoral beauty.”
“Sure,” Light said, “I like Galisteo as much as anyone else, but I think it’s interesting if you get above Galisteo and see how it’s been torn to pieces, loved to death. On the ground, I want to stroll among those lovely oaks by the river, but up above I can pick out which billionaire has done what to the landscape.”
The fact is that, like photographer William Eggleston, Light has a democratic sensibility. He would just as soon shoot a parking lot at Yosemite National Park as he would its spectacular waterfalls. In high school, Light worshipped at the thrones of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Now he relates to a newer wave of photographers including Robert Adams and Eggleston, who have, in part, rebelled against portrayals of the pristine, the ideal.
“ LA Day/LA Night is kind of a cosmic book, in a way. It’s about day and night and light and stars,” Light said. “The others are much more specific. I’m really interested in trying to set Las Vegas or Phoenix into some context of the geology that surrounds them. And that includes beauty, the quality of light and poignancy.”