2900 Miles and Other Jumping Cholla

Serge Levy

2016 - 2020

United States; Tucson, Arizona, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Arizona, United States; Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States; Flagstaff, Arizona, United States

What does a heartbeat look like? I have seen scribbled horizons; undular and nervous lines marked by abrupt peaks and sharp valleys. And of course I have heard the flat-line of death. Those lines are a perfect metric for a doctor to envision my physicist father’s failing health. An image of a heart functioning at a third capacity of its younger self. Yet, I gather my own proof in photographs—feelings extracted from moments in my life, rife with cryptic truths.

This project is a collection of hidden messages drawn from living 2,900 miles away from my father’s decline. These photographs are evidence plucked from a distant periphery; moments found in daily-life anecdotes from the desert Southwest or the rare visit back East. Reminders, perhaps an admission to myself, that my father is dying. And they are a premonition of what that loss looks like. Textures and narratives leap at me from a physician visit, desert vistas, or the living room. These photos embody the knowledge that no matter how far I run I am still connected to his withdrawal from this world. Perhaps this is a knowledge that will endure beyond his passing. But for now, daily omens appear in the warmth of the home, on the edges of sublime wilderness, and wherever I go to forget.

The Incomplete Afterword:

At the end of a Jewish funeral, graveside attendees will each take the shovel to participate in the finality of letting go and burying the dead. However, as a gesture of reluctance, traditionally the first scoop of dirt is made with the shovel upside down. (It’s a frustrating gesture to use a perfect tool in its most inefficient way.)

My naïve assumption was that my father’s death would define the natural end to “2900 Miles and Other Jumping Cholla.” He died in November of 2018. As I continued the project, I balanced his sustained presence with an inability to let go.

The project came to an end in the Spring of 2020.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • Tucson, AZ. 2017. (Size: 17" x 22")

    “2900 Miles and Other Jumping Cholla” brings together four years of making photographs in response to my father’s decline due to heart failure, his death, and the magnitude of that loss. Ever since leaving New York City eight years ago, the Southwestern landscape has become a palette of symbols and phenomena from which I have drawn realizations of my emotional life. My earlier city street photography used the gestures, dramas, and interactions of urbanites as representatives of buried emotional narratives. Since moving to the Southwest, I have been exploring the landscape for its possibilities to reflect back representations of loss, pain, and even the relief and hope that form the arc of mourning.

  • Tucson, AZ. 2017. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • The Dawn Greene Hospice, NY, NY. 2018. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Clear Creek, Grand Canyon, AZ. 2019. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Sycamore Canyon, Mt. Lemmon, AZ. 2016. (Size: 22" x 17")

  • Central Park, NY, NY. 2018. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Marshall Lake, AZ. 2019. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Deer Creek/Hell Hole Canyon, AZ. 2018. (Size: 22" x 17")

  • The Arizona Strip, AZ. 2019. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon, AZ. 2019. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Tucson, AZ. 2017. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • New York, NY. 2017. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • East Tonto Trail, Grand Canyon, AZ. 2018. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Oracle Ridge Trail, Mt. Lemmon, AZ. 2016. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Lava Tube, Hart Prairie, AZ. 2018. (Size: 22" x 17")

  • Tucson, AZ. 2019. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Tucson, AZ. 2019. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Weill Cornell Medical Center, NY, NY. 2017. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • Kanab Creek Wilderness, AZ. 2019. (Size: 17" x 22")

  • I-10 East of Tucson, AZ. 2016. (Size: 17" x 22")