History is readable through the transformation of accessibility. The ages of travel changed dramatically through the invention of the steam engine, the automobile, the plane, and for the imagination, through photography and film, print media and now the Internet.
Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge, early photographers of the American West, had to port their photographic equipment with the help of donkeys and numerous assistants. They coated their mammoth glass-plate negatives with collodion in dark tents on location and had to expose and develop them on site while they were still wet. Today, mobile phones in the hands of hundreds of millions of people come equiped with digital cameras exceeding five million pixels and are often smaller than a wallet or a pack of cigarettes.
Travelling through California and Nevada with my brother in 1998, we reached Yosemite National Park and El Capitan one afternoon and discovered its famous steep face from a perfectly angled vista approaching on Northside Drive. In the bright light, the mountain climbers hanging off the face in their hammocks were barely visible, even to the naked eye. The number of people just stopping their cars briefly, on the broadened side of the road, to get out and snap a picture of the granite monolith with their digital cameras was astonishing.
A drive-through natural monument, an example of fast-forward change of time and circumstance, body and imagination, gain and loss, El Capitan appeared as a celebrity monument, a toy, an object to be marked off of the travel list.
In an instant, my impression of the scenery bridged different eras of photography, of travel, imagination and the relationship between body and mind. It's almost as if the subject was more picture than mountain.
Thomas Struth, Berlin September 10th 2010