Peter Happel Christian – Half Wild

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Half Wild is a motley group of photographs that grapple with the colonial idea of wilderness, the photographic image legacy of the American West, and the landscape as a place of psychological reflection. Its title is drawn from a passage in the book, “Our National Parks,” written by John Muir in 1901. Early in the book, Muir characterizes the parks and gardens of towns as half wild and celebrates the public’s growing interest in the natural environment as a spiritual and rejuvenating place. During the summer of 2011, I removed three large shrubs from my front yard during a landscaping project. In the process of pulling the root balls from the ground, a rusted animal trap popped out of the dirt. With Muir’s words in my mind, I recognized the latent “wild” character of my residential landscape. Could this familiar landscape, now a terra incognita, captivate me in the way one might view a meadow from a mountaintop?

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