Sunday, June 1, 2008


Half a century of photography, half a hundred exhibit books and still going strong—David Muench has a new book of the work that has made him a world treasure

This Article Features Photo Zoom
"That's a key picture," says Muench. "I first found the aperture in the rock and recorded it. Turning around, I saw the rock art just 20 feet away."

He will photograph during midday. "If it's overcast or raining—perfect!" But he says, "Midday sun is too bald. I usually use that time to scout new locations."

Excited by such successes, Muench created an illusionary masterpiece with "Baboquivari Dawn," in which a subtle sky silhouettes supplicant cacti. In the space above, the vaporous outline of Baboquivari Peak, sacred site of the Tohono O'odham people, levitates with transcendental power.

The feat is all the more impressive when you consider Muench made these composites, not on a light table, but in-camera.

"Sometimes I put a sticker on the ground glass to remind me of the exposure I had just made," he says. "I tried to shoot them close together, so they wouldn't slip out of my head. It was a lot of fun."

Each exposure was, he adds, "usually one stop under. To get one element lighter than the other, I'd underexpose 1 ¼ or 1 ½ stops. If I wanted an element stronger, I'd underexpose only ¾ of a stop.

"Some people do multiple exposures, but I like two. Now, with today's amazing digital tools, I'm a little hesitant to do it."

Ancient Puebloan Ruins, Navajo Nation. Ancient and mystical, this is where time stands still. Linhof 4x5, 75mm lens, Fujichrome Velvia
He doesn't elaborate, but the sense is he'd rather work in-camera instead of on the computer. For Muench, in-camera is a more immersive, fluid process because he must hold the feeling of one image and imagine how it might interact with the second compositional element that he studies under the dark cloth—upside down and backward.

David Muench And Be There
Any moment in the field offers the potential for achieving a timeless image. With Arizona, David Muench shares his family album of a lifetime of them.

"The book is a personal statement that shares the excitement of what I do," Muench explains. "That's what keeps me going. I know where these places are. They demand your full presence. It's a matter of just going back there, and being there. I choose to look forward rather than reminisce."

While he regards all his books as gallery exhibits in book form, Arizona represents a full measure of Muench, the witness—Muench, the interpreter, for the soul of the land. Move through the pages slowly enough, and in time, you sense every throat-choking, dusty hike down a sandstone trail, every biting wind high on a bristlecone slope.

"Arizona holds a very special place on this globe. I love the landscape—its challenge, its brilliant light, all its moods. That's what the book is really about: the layers through time of my work."

To see more of David Muench's photography and for information on purchasing prints and books, visit www.muenchphotography.com.


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