I moved to Tucson from New York City and began taking pictures of the desert. My approach was initially unfocused and random, but with time I grew accustomed to the landscape and my ability to recognize the subtleties of my surroundings sharpened. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was soon drawn to the magisterial beauty of the saguaro cactus, and my indiscriminate photography practice morphed into a portrait study of these desert giants.
While the reference to images of cactus as “portraits” flirts with anthropomorphism, I would like to point out that if I am guilty of this transgression, then I am in good company. The indigenous Tohono O’odham, having lived in the company of saguaros for millennia, declare them to be beings formed of a Tohono O’odham ancestor. It may thus be no coincidence that empathetic desert visitors perceive an upraised saguaro arm to be an act of greeting, or view limbs limp from old age as a gesture of despair. As a photographer I confess to consciously exploiting this sense of human attitude, for I too am not immune to its charms. More importantly, I recognize that there is great benefit to this anthropomorphic tendency - quite simply, it allows us humans to see a reflection of ourselves in nature … a place from which we have sadly grown too far apart.