Photographer Laura McPhee’s “River of No Return” takes place throughout Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, capturing the relationship between its tiny population and the natural world in which they are immersed. According to McPhee, this connection reflects, in microcosm, many of the same bonds that are found in America at large: “In the valley, one can see with great clarity some of America’s overarching dichotomies, such as rugged individualism versus the cooperative requirements of democratic community, development versus preservations, personal freedoms versus government regulation.”
McPhee’s photographs consider these contrasts, offering a tender and inquisitive portrait of the contemporary American landscape and our relationship to it. “The work is both personal and political, as it takes in the conflicts over land use and considers the possible futures of a landscape we believe to be quintessentially American,” she explains. “Photography is, of course, a form of preservation, an attempt to distill and to keep. Using 19th-century technology in the 21st, I attempt to slow time and open a space for both contemporary facts and imagination.”
Laura McPhee lives alternatively in New York City and rural Idaho and teaches at the public Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. See more from “River of No Return” below!