More than Scenery: Yellowstone, An American Love Story

My romance with the American West began with horseback riding, movies, and my father’s dreams of being a cowboy. However, when I began to spend adolescent summers in Wyoming in the 1960s, my world changed forever; I fell under the spell of natural wonder in the shadow of the Tetons. Only later did I come to recognize my feelings as a response to what nineteenth-century Romantics called the sublime.

A vintage picture postcard of Golden Gate Canyon by F. Jay Haynes inspired this project. When I turned it over and read the message, I was back in a childhood place of wonder tempered by a lifetime of work in landscape photography and raising a family: “I cannot describe the Yellowstone as the dictionary is only a book. It is more than scenery. In some places it is so beautiful that the men take off their hats and the women are silent!”

Formed by fire and ice, embraced by a nation seeking an ancient past with a future as grand as the landscapes it inhabited, Yellowstone was established as the world’s first national park by an Act of Congress in 1872. Yellowstone National Park continues to occupy an iconic place in our national imagination, as a site both real and ideal. Here, in this complex microcosm where nature and culture meet, our ideas and beliefs reveal much about the complexities of our relationship to the natural world. Each generation invests the park with values reflecting its historical moment and More than Scenery: Yellowstone, an American Love Story surveys these relationships photographically.