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Hostile Territory

Hostile Territory

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Monument Valley, Utah, USA - 2022

Standard - 37” x 59” Unframed, 52” x 74” Framed - Edition of 12

Large - 56” x 90” Unframed, 71” x 105” Framed - Edition of 12

Harry Goulding - a Durango sheepherder by trade - first set eyes on Monument Valley in 1923 and saw its potential and set up a small trading post. Little then happened as the stockmarket crashed in 1929 and America fell into the Great Depression.

But in 1939, Goulding learned that a Hollywood Studio was looking for a location to shoot a major Southwestern movie. He persuaded a photographer - Josef Muench - to prepare a booklet of 10 x 8 contact prints of the most dramatic formations of Monument Valley such as the three sisters and Goulding took them to Hollywood and showed them to John Ford.

Ford immediately agreed that Stagecoach should be filmed in Monument Valley and over the next 25 years he would shoot nine of his most influential films there. Thanks to Goulding, this extraordinary landscape became integral to the careers of both John Ford and John Wayne.

In my scouting of this land of giant cathedrals of sand rose rock, I have been drawn to a section of the southern edge of what is now a protected tribal park. It is Navajo Reservation land. Here wind patterns in the desert are coupled with a vista from the book of Genesis. It is as grand and timeless as any landscape I know - the biblical equivalent of the modern-day river view in Chicago, with seven out of eight buildings removed.

Being Navajo land, we could only film there with their approval and support. I want to thank the head of the local film commission - Bega Metzner - for her help and Navajo local Orville Sisco for securing the permit. We were met with cooperation and gratitude throughout our production by the Navajo.

The lead complication was finding a practical way for the wagon to arrive at my chosen location. There are no roads here. But time was the antidote and the team used it well. As the world’s worst driver, my admiration could not be deeper.

My goal was to play on a sense of heroic isolation and implicit transgression and in so doing hint at vulnerability. That, after all, was the story of the Wild West; danger lurked around every corner or in this case monolith. That is exactly why John Ford chose Monument Valley - it is a character in itself.

~ David Yarrow

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