West World

Sawtooth Peak, California.

West World

A photographer’s obsession with a familiar yet otherworldly landscape.

Since 2014, I’ve been thinking about—and photographing—the West. I started this project at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, where Georgia O’Keeffe painted for decades, but it wasn’t until a few years after that visit that I was able to match my ideas with what was coming out of the camera. I use an imaging process called full-spectrum photography, where the camera is modified to capture everything from ultraviolet to infrared light. It’s perfect for photographing these landscapes, which are saturated with a vast diversity of scenery, people, wealth, and beliefs, beyond what the naked eye can see. For me, color works the same way; wherever there is a dominant color, there is also complexity—a full spectrum.

Over the course of thousands of pictures, I have started to see the West as a kind of mirage: it’s a frontier that can feel as if it’s within reach, but whenever you try to grab hold, it will elude you. No matter how many times you go to the same place, it is never the same. Something new will reveal itself, challenge you, and distort your perception each and every time. That’s why I use color and alternate processes to challenge the notion of the frontier: I am inviting my imagination to see past what can be grasped upon first glance.

—Brendan Pattengale

Death Valley, California.
The Eastern Sierra Nevada, California.
Death Valley, California.
Death Valley, California.
View from Panum Crater, near June Lake, California.
White Sands, New Mexico.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona.
Arches National Park, Utah.
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