There’s a degree of controversy over power in Arizona, and in Alberta too. We want to use more electricity, but nobody really wants the generation plants or the transmission lines in their back yard. Near Page, Arizona, heavy transmission lines criss-cross the sky.
Story Behind the Scene:
Driving along the highway near Page, Arizona with project teammates Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and Peter Carroll, I spied some details that caught my eye in a way that probably had my fellow photographers shaking their heads. I have relatives who work in the power generation and transmission industries here in Alberta, so I’m always on the lookout for potential photography features related to this industrial subject. I’m also somewhat sensitized to social, economic and conservation issues that often swirl around the power generation and transmission infrastructure used to feed our modern society’s seeming insatiable demand for more power.
One of our running in-jokes on this project was whether it was possible to make a good photograph under a clear blue sky. I had vowed to make at least one photograph featuring an empty sky and put it into the exhibit. When I spotted this electric operation by Page, with ranks of heavy transmission lines, I thought I might have a contender for my blue-sky show piece!
On a purely artistic level, this is an example of a minimalist / abstract image featuring simple graphic design — lines and blocks of space. On another level, by showing cut-off segments of power lines, perhaps there’s something deeper, a question for myself and for viewers. Where do these power lines come from, and where are they going? What do we think about the appearance of power lines in an iconic landscape? What do we think about the effects of hydroelectric generation on an iconic river like the Colorado? No matter where each of us lives and what our personal positions are, I think it’s a good thing if we ask ourselves questions like this, and answer them based on a fuller knowledge of the implications on all levels: economic, social and environmental.
As much as certain pundits or protestors might like otherwise, there are no easy answers to tough questions like these. But even though we may not realize it at the time, it’s actually worse not to even ask the questions. When I reviewed my photographs from the project and thought about things I knew of power and water issues that echo each other in both Arizona and Alberta, I knew I had another selection for my exhibit set.