“Dost not see? A monstrous giant of infamous repute whom I intend to encounter.” —Cervantes, in Don Quixote
If you’re a landscape photographer you know, as did Cervantes’ old gentleman, about the monsters dotting our countrysides.
The oldest of these are the various poles—usually made of wood, stained dark brown from a dunking in creosote, and steadfastly supportive of our land-line communication and power lines.
As technologies evolved, so did poles—newer versions were constructed of metal, were invariably larger and, in a worst-case scenario for photographers, taller. Much taller. Which made it easier to see all the lines, too.
As wireless communication came into being it birthed a new monstrosity: the cell tower. These creations added their own distinction to landscapes—they
were are ugly, without exception or reason.
All along, landscape photographers had been trying to outmaneuver these burgeoning incarnations of Progress, retreating farther and farther afield into remote areas both wild and valuable for their distance from Civilization.
Eventually, of course, someone living out there
needed wanted to make a long-distance phone call, or wire in a home theater, and those conveniences required umbilical cords of their own, and places to hang them. The monsters marched on.
Heroically, a few peasants rebelled, burying lines in the ground to deny the monsters their great skeletons, and placing special panels to capture the sun’s bounty, but as they resisted a new monster appeared, larger than all others in size and number and bearing so-called clean benefits. For just a moment the people hesitated, and blinked. When they looked again…
If Don Quixote were to ride in the West today I’d like to believe he’d admire the scattered windmills that become rarer with each passing year—for their simpleness, their efficient-but-pleasing shapes, and their ability to blend into a landscape. They’re story-tellers and historians, and accessible, and which photographer can pass one without tilting to make a picture?