Now and then The new Oblique Views ex­hibit at the Mu­seum of In­dian Arts and Cul­ture

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Paul Wei­de­man

Tnewest ex­am­ple of now-and-then pho­tog­ra­phy books has more than one in­trigu­ing wrin­kle. In Adriel Heisey’s stun­ning images, the pho­tog­ra­pher shows us the changes that have oc­curred on an­cient Pue­blo land­scapes since 1929, when they were pho­tographed by Charles and Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh. Sev­en­teen such pair­ings are on dis­play in the ex­hi­bi­tion Oblique Views: Ar­chae­ol­ogy,

Pho­tog­ra­phy, and Time, open­ing Sun­day, Oct. 25, with book sign­ings, dance per­for­mances, and pho­tog­ra­phy ac­tiv­i­ties at the Mu­seum of In­dian Arts & Cul­ture (710 Camino Lejo).

The most ob­vi­ously dra­matic con­trast in the Lind­bergh and Heisey views is of Chaco Canyon’s Pue­blo Bonito. The best-known Cha­coan great house, the D-shaped com­plex may have had more than 300 rooms on the ground floor alone at the height of the An­ces­tral Pue­bloan so­ci­ety there nine or 10 cen­turies ago. The Pue­blo Bonito com­plex rose to four or five sto­ries at the rear, near the canyon wall. In the 1929 photo, a mon­u­men­tal slab named Threat­en­ing Rock stood slightly away from the canyon wall. It had been sta­bi­lized for a mil­len­nium by the an­cient in­hab­i­tants with pine-log props and a stone ter­race at its foot, but in the 1930s, Na­tional Park Ser­vice en­gi­neers, fear­ing calamity, cleared ma­te­rial from be­hind the slab. Less than a decade later, it fell, oblit­er­at­ing or dam­ag­ing 65 rooms in the north­east sec­tion of the pue­blo.

The Oblique Views project was con­ceived in 2004 by the Tuc­son-based non­profit Ar­chae­ol­ogy South­west, then known as the Cen­ter for Desert Ar­chae­ol­ogy. In the book Oblique Views: Aerial Pho­tog­ra­phy and South­west Ar­chae­ol­ogy (Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press), which ac­com­pa­nies the ex­hi­bi­tion, es­says

by Max­ine E. McBrinn, the mu­seum’s cu­ra­tor of ar­chae­ol­ogy; Linda J. Pierce, Ar­chae­ol­ogy South­west’s deputy di­rec­tor; and his­to­rian and writer Erik O. Berg il­lu­mi­nate the con­text of his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture, and ar­chae­ol­ogy be­hind the pho­tos.

The Lind­bergh pho­to­graphs were taken at the re­quest of Al­fred Vin­cent Kid­der, a pioneer in ar­chae­ol­ogy in the South­west be­gin­ning in 1915. Four­teen years later, when Kid­der was chair­man of his­tor­i­cal re­search at the Carnegie In­sti­tu­tion, he hired Lindy af­ter the air­man ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to take aerial pho­to­graphs of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites in Me­soamer­ica and the Amer­i­can South­west. The new ex­hi­bi­tion’s pho­to­graphs from the 1929 aerial sur­vey — with Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh at the con­trols and pos­si­bly pho­tograph­ing some of the sites — doc­u­ment Canyon de Chelly and Chaco Canyon, as well as Santa Fe, Pe­cos Pue­blo, and Santa Clara Pue­blo.

Nearly 80 years later, af­ter be­ing com­mis­sioned by Ar­chae­ol­ogy South­west, Heisey be­gan to repho­to­graph the same sites. Heisey is a self-taught pho­tog­ra­pher. He bought his first cam­era the year he grad­u­ated from high school in Newville, Penn­syl­va­nia. He moved to the South­west at age twenty-six. Soon he was liv­ing in Win­dow Rock and fly­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, fer­ry­ing the Navajo lead­er­ship around the vast reser­va­tion, which he still does. Heisey has pub­lished four books fea­tur­ing his aerial pho­tog­ra­phy, among them Un­der the Sun: A Sono­ran Desert Odyssey (Rio Nuevo, 2000)

and The Rio Grande: An Ea­gle’s View (WildEarth Guardians, 2011).

Heisey con­trols his Flight De­sign CTSW air­plane with his right leg and both feet, and while in “slow flight” mode — some­times mov­ing at less than 40 miles per hour — he leans out of the open cock­pit door to pho­to­graph the land­scape. In 2008, he set up his cam­era to feed images into a lap­top. Now, at a glance, he could com­pare his images with the Lind­bergh pho­tos and fine-tune his shoot­ing per­spec­tive.

The MIAC ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures Heisey’s prints and new prints of the Lind­bergh ma­te­rial. As the team be­gan ex­plor­ing the Lind­bergh photo col­lec­tion, ar­chiv­ists at the Palace of the Gov­er­nors, where it is housed, were alarmed at the state of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the old ni­trate neg­a­tives. In May 2007, Pierce and pho­to­graphic col­lec­tions cu­ra­tor Jan­nelle Weakly from the Ari­zona State Mu­seum trav­eled to Santa Fe to make high-res­o­lu­tion scans of the 198 re­main­ing neg­a­tives.

The ex­hi­bi­tion prints were not made from those scans, how­ever. “We started off us­ing them but later re­al­ized that the prints we had in the Lab­o­ra­tory of An­thro­pol­ogy ar­chives, most of which were printed at the time the Lind­berghs were con­duct­ing their aerial pho­to­graphic sur­vey or shortly af­ter, were of­ten bet­ter,” McBrinn told Pasatiempo. “Many of the neg­a­tives had de­gen­er­ated over the many years since they were pro­duced. So the images in the ex­hi­bi­tion are scans from the pho­to­graphs rather than from the neg­a­tives. But the ef­fort to pre­serve the neg­a­tives still trig­gered the whole process that led to the ex­hi­bi­tion.”

Heisey made two of his pho­tos us­ing color trans­parency film with a medium-for­mat Pen­tax 645 cam­era. The most re­cent images, in­clud­ing the North­ern New Mex­ico pho­tog­ra­phy done early in 2015, were shot

The joy in hav­ing a small plane is go­ing out and ex­plor­ing th­ese Cha­coan out­liers, many of which are un­known to any ex­cept the hard­core Cha­coan re­searchers.

— pho­tog­ra­pher Adriel Heisey

with a high-tech (36-megapixel) Nikon D810 cam­era. The viewer will no­tice that the de­tail in Heisey’s pho­tos is much sharper than in the 1929 images. Two fac­tors that were re­al­i­ties in Lind­bergh’s time were large, bulky cam­eras and slower film that ne­ces­si­tated shoot­ing at slower shut­ter speeds, at which mo­tion tends to blur. “In my work, I have all the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­van­tages and the ben­e­fit of hav­ing done this for a long time, so I sort of made all the mis­takes ear­lier in my ca­reer,” Heisey said.

The clar­ity dif­fer­en­tial is ob­vi­ous, for ex­am­ple, in the pho­tos of Chaco’s Chetro Ketl com­plex. It also could be that the ru­ins — the clus­ters of room blocks and ki­vas — have been ar­chi­tec­turally cleaned up, or sta­bi­lized, by the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, so that every­thing stands out more clearly. “That’s it,” Heisey agreed. “It’s funny: It has hap­pened both in re­al­ity and pho­to­graph­i­cally.”

Is Lind­bergh a per­sonal hero? “I have to con­fess that un­til this project, he wasn’t some­one that I paid a lot of at­ten­tion to, but as this all came within my sphere of aware­ness, I de­vel­oped a par­tic­u­lar ad­mi­ra­tion for what he did and also more of a per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with his life path,” Heisey said. “There’s a fun­da­men­tal core pas­sion that I read­ily iden­ti­fied with. There is a lot of ad­ver­sity and a lot of dan­ger as­so­ci­ated with this work, and I’ve re­al­ized as I’ve got­ten older that in or­der to sur­mount that and en­joy the spe­cial magic of it, you have to have that fire burn­ing deep in­side, and that’s what I rec­og­nized in Charles Lind­bergh as I read his bi­og­ra­phy.

“Be­sides the work with the Navajo Na­tion, I do fly for fun. I have my own air­plane, and the rea­son I have it is mostly for my aerial pho­tog­ra­phy work, but it’s also for ex­plo­ration and dis­cov­ery and cre­ative en­gage­ment.” Heisey is work­ing on sev­eral projects, in­clud­ing one about Chaco. The more he has flown and seen, the more he has been fas­ci­nated by the wide­spread ge­og­ra­phy of the Cha­coan world. There are rem­nants of the civ­i­liza­tion on the land­scape even in the vicin­ity of Gallup, 65 miles south­west of Pue­blo Bonito. “Oh, yeah, and a long way south of Gallup, ac­tu­ally. The joy in hav­ing a small plane is go­ing out and ex­plor­ing th­ese Cha­coan out­liers, many of which are un­known to any ex­cept the hard­core Cha­coan re­searchers. Find­ing all this out is a won­der­ful way of en­liven­ing the land­scape.”

He isn’t sure how many of the re­mote sites from the Cha­coan world are vis­ited by Na­tive peo­ples to­day. “I think some are, but in other cases they’re for­got­ten. The Nava­jos are kind of for­bid­den to spend time at th­ese places; they’re mostly known as places to stay away from. And many of the Cha­coan sites are on Navajo land. The Navajo Na­tion’s ar­chae­ol­ogy depart­ment has its own Cha­coan site-pro­tec­tion pro­gram. With oil and gas de­vel­op­ment, min­ing, pipe­lines, and roads, there are al­ways threats, partly be­cause th­ese fea­tures are not known, so it’s real im­por­tant to doc­u­ment them.

“Some traces of the cul­ture are so sub­tle and so lit­tle is known that they could be de­stroyed be­fore we even knew they were there. I have taken a spe­cial in­ter­est in the Cha­coan road sys­tem be­cause the roads are of­ten away from any ru­ins and of­ten can only be seen from the air, and they’re so del­i­cate. We’re talk­ing about a del­i­cate trace on the land­scape that’s a thou­sand years old.”

Pue­blo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, 2004, photo Adriel Heisey;

op­po­site page, Pue­blo Bonito, 1929, photo Charles A. and Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh; images cour­tesy Oblique Views: Aerial Pho­tog­ra­phy and South­west Ar­chae­ol­ogy,

Charles A. Lind­bergh & Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh and Adriel Heisey, edited by Max­ine E. McBrinn,

es­says by Linda J. Pierce and Erik O. Berg, pub­lished by the Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press, 2015

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