Views from Wonderland, Volume 1: the Visitors by Janet Pritchard

Issue 22

My romance with the West began as a child of the mid-Atlantic nurtured by horseback riding, movies and my Father’s dreams. However, when I began to spend summers in Wyoming as an adolescent my world changed forever. Views from Wonderland began with a vintage picture postcard by F. Jay Haynes. When I turned it over and read these words, I was hooked back into a dream I thought was past: “I cannot describe the Yellowstone, as the dictionary is only a book. It is more than scenery, and in some places it is so beautiful that the men take off their hats and the women are silent!”

Views unfolded slowly in my mind as I returned to wander among the postcard views I was collecting. Soon I was cruising the Internet for clues to questions they raised. As a landscape photographer, I use information from many sources to immerse myself in a geographic region, a method I describe as the pursuit of artistic vision through historical empathy. For this project, a fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society allowed me to look closely at F. V. Hayden’s government reports.

Now when I walk in the park I experience the land physically as topographic features stretch out beneath my feet; geology is everywhere evident to my eyes and wild animals rule. I experience it emotionally through the lens of personal memory as qualities of light, colors of earth and smells in the air trigger memories of my years in Wyoming as a young woman yearning for something she could not analyze. All the while, the lens of cultural memory preserved in history, links my experiences with those of a larger society, and images by others are present in my mind’s eye. These photographs of park visitors are but the first chapter of a larger story I have to tell about Yellowstone that began with the anonymous words of a park visitor mailed on July 26, 1914, from Helena, Montana, to Southbridge, Massachusetts: “I can not describe the Yellowstone…”

Janet Pritchard is a Mansfield Center, CT based artist and teacher at the University of Connecticut.
To view more of Janet's work, please visit her website.

  Where the Boiling & Gardner Rivers Meet, 2008 

Where the Boiling & Gardner Rivers Meet, 2008 

  Fall Rut, Elk in Mammoth Hot Springs, 2008 

Fall Rut, Elk in Mammoth Hot Springs, 2008 

  Rock Climbing in the Hoo Doos of Silver Gate, 2008 

Rock Climbing in the Hoo Doos of Silver Gate, 2008 

  Monarch Geyser Crater, Norris Geyser Basin, 2008 

Monarch Geyser Crater, Norris Geyser Basin, 2008 

  Terrace Geyser Overlooking National Park Mountain, Grand Loop Rd, 2008 

Terrace Geyser Overlooking National Park Mountain, Grand Loop Rd, 2008 

  Cow Elk, Madison River Valley, 2008 

Cow Elk, Madison River Valley, 2008 

  Firehole River with Swimmer, 2008 

Firehole River with Swimmer, 2008 

  Excelsior Geyser, Midway Geyser Basin, 2009 

Excelsior Geyser, Midway Geyser Basin, 2009 

  Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, 2009 

Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, 2009 

  Old Faithful Geyser, 2008 

Old Faithful Geyser, 2008 

  Brink of the Lower Yellowstone Falls, 2009 

Brink of the Lower Yellowstone Falls, 2009 

  Whiteout on Beartooth Pass in June, 2010 

Whiteout on Beartooth Pass in June, 2010 

  Ash in Fall Color, 2008 

Ash in Fall Color, 2008 

  Petrified Tree, Near Tower-Roosevelt, 2008 

Petrified Tree, Near Tower-Roosevelt, 2008 

  Along the Northern Grand Loop Road, 2008 

Along the Northern Grand Loop Road, 2008 

  Hellroaring Overlook, Returning to Mammoth, 2009

Hellroaring Overlook, Returning to Mammoth, 2009

  Buffalo on Road in Lamar Valley, 2008  

Buffalo on Road in Lamar Valley, 2008  

  Lamar Valley with Vintage Yellow Bus, 2009 

Lamar Valley with Vintage Yellow Bus, 2009