Photographs of the American Southwest, a new book by photographer Dan Martensen, represents nearly ten years of road trips to the aforementioned locale: a dusty, barren hotbed of distinctly American wasteland. The title may be misleading to those expecting majestic rock formations and awesome canyons. Martensen looks instead for surreal shrines left behind by man. The shopping mall that was and is no more, the back of a pickup truck piled high with dried brush, abandoned long ago and entirely forgotten. Chasing ghosts across the region, Martensen lingers over our leftovers, documenting an afterlife of abandonment. Failures aren’t covered up or hidden—they’re just left to fade in the arid desert air. To Martensen the Southwest cultivates a graveyard of “promises for a better tomorrow.” “The more of them you see on billboards and church lawns, the more it begins to feel like a setup,” he says, as in a swimming pool filled with dirt that looks like a spiteful broken promise. Martensen possesses an uncanny ability to track down and preserve what wasn’t meant to be seen again. He makes us pay attention to those beautiful things that don’t want any attention paid to them.
Photographs of the American Southwest is out in October from Damiani. A numbered, limited-edition run of two hundred copies including a signed print is also available.