Steptoe, the Palouse, Eastern Washington

Steptoe from Steptoe

In this post to accompany my Palouse images I have run into something that is making me quite hesitant to publish and display these pictures.  In every fine art photography course I have taken, the instructor has been adamant about avoiding cliches.  I am coming to the realization that images of the Palouse are becoming cliche.

Living in Spokane, Washington I am right next to the Palouse.  In fact, I can walk a few blocks to the end of my street and take in a vista of the northern part of the Palouse.  Of course, this makes it quite easy for for me to load my camera equipment in the car and take off for a day of picture taking and be home to sleep in my own bed that night.  This also makes it just as easy for my neighbors to do the same thing, or anybody. 

A quick “Google” search of “photography workshop palouse” returns 42,000 hits.  Among this group are a lot of photographers I respect, like Art Wolfe (http://artwolfe.com/tag/palouse/) and Kevin Raber (https://luminous-landscape.com/palouse-four-person-private-workshop/).  You cannot go to any kind of art fair around here where there are not several photographers trying to hock yet another image of Palouse Falls under a painted in sky or eerie dune-like landscape shots from Steptoe Butte.

This all brings me to a now famous blog post by Ugo Cei (http://www.ucphoto.me/b/will-the-real-landscape-photography-please-stand-up/) where the author describes how a series of images on a large screen video monitor in a pub where he was eating left him feeling numb and like “after a binge of eating chocolate or sweets”.  The commentary on Ugo’s opinion in the landscape photography world was quite passionate, both in support and in condemnation of his viewpoint.  I choose to look on it as a caution; am I trying to mimic the crowd or am I really trying to create an honest interpretation of what I see, something unique?  How can I avoid this “photographic industrial complex” (http://pullmanchamber.com/visit-pullman/things-to-do-in-pullman/photography/) that has built up in this area?  Ugo Cei’s final statement in that post seems to be prophetic, “I didn’t think being an artist would have been so difficult.”

Occasionally I am asked to recommend places in Eastern Washington for picture taking.  I usually steer them away from the Palouse over to the channeled scablands (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channeled_Scablands).  Not because of some insane notion that I have a secret place to get the best shots, but because there are many other places around here where you can get beautiful landscape captures.  However, you will have to work a little harder to get a good image.

In the Palouse, the abstracts, patterns and textures are right in front of you.  All you have to do is click the shutter and you have a stunning image, along with a million or so other people.  Finding the same qualities in some of the other places around here is a bit more challenging.  Hmmmm, I have quite a bit of stock near places like here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aETWKNAckgQ) and here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtgMGWZxtb8).  I think I now know what my next series is going to be.