William Mark Sommer

2017 - Ongoing

United States

Beneath the chopped toxic mountains of the rural Southwest United States the spirit of Manifest destiny is continued within the ever-expanding mining industry. This paradoxical idea of divine conquest has been perpetually pursued within America as these companies take land, deplete resources, shutter, and move on. Although this cyclical process is destructive to nature and devastating the communities that have grown to service these mines, nothing is given back when the ore is gone and the cost outweighs the profit.

In Dusted, I look to convey this complex history of mining by addressing the whitewashed narrative of America’s history; a version too often presented in history books and museums. Through research in the history and in the field, I found these narratives of history tend to only show glory and not the failures of the past, and by doing so this history continues the exploitation of the present. In utilizing historical writings, reenacted history and showing the true destructive nature that persists within the giant open pits that pepper the landscape, I look to reveal what was left in the wake of false promises and hopes.

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  • Chopped Mountains. Truck by truck the mountain is ravaged, consistently taken from, more and more, what will be left when this mountain is gone and all that's left is a gaping scar?

  • Untitled. Coming to make a life in a abandoned mining town, Mattenany gives tours across its forsaken land.

  • Lone Cowboy. The Lone Cowboy, an imagined artifact of Hollywood portraited by John Ford moves. This fixture of the depiction of the west has been a withstanding tradition for years across Monument Valley. Now in Contemporary America, the trained horse stands petrified on the edge of the cliff so tourist can have themselves pictured as they were apart of these John Ford films.

  • Abandoned Town. The corporate greed of a few outweighs the lively hood of many when the mine closes leaving the towns to wither away.

  • Forgotten Lives.Through the many thrift stores that come to inhabit these forgotten towns, many specialize in selling religious artifacts of previous residents.

  • Miners End.The graves of many online the land of a few as the people who struggled to mine through Tonopah, Nevada are buried next to the land they ripped apart.

  • Untitled. On the side of history, Joyce looks to share the effects of mining by keeping a living museum of the pioneer town that made life around the mine.

  • Homestead. The lasting vestige of the pioneers that created the west in violence, a lasting mentality that is continued today as most forget history and never believe that their homes may become this.

  • Last Light. Darkness reigns within the mine, start before sunrise, end after sunset, living fully within artificial light.

  • Queen Mine. Into the darkness of the mine, the air thickens as you descend further and further. The sun disappears as you travel beyond. Nothing but darkness in this continent of rock.

  • Left Behind.When the mine goes people are left to make the tough decisions, what to take and what stays behind.

  • 6.65.Closures plague a town as companies close and fire locals only out of profit within this boom and bust industry.

  • Profit Margins. “If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making.”
    ― Edward Abbey, Desert

  • Mine Strike.Told by miner, "These companies from Mexico want to pay us less than minimum wage, why risk my life in a truck when I could make a better living at McDonald's."

  • Ore Hauler.Like a steady flow of an orchestra the blasting commences, flowed by the smashing of rock from tractor to bucket, with consistent the pull of the motor out of the pit and back. This destructive song is forever embedded in my mind.

  • No Man's Land. The signs no longer read, the road turns to dirt and the land reclaims itself.

  • Lavender Pit. I find solace through Abbys words when creating this series,“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break....I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”
    ― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

  • Sunrise Saguaro. The sun rises over the untouched desolate land of the southwest, only few have been able to capture this land in the word.

  • No Hands Bridge. Around the bend, stands suck in time above the waters of the American River, No Hands Bridge is a testament of mining’s power as the old bridge continues to sand the remnants of current bridges line the rivers shore.

  • Black Water. The Gold Rush was started within these waters; 300,000 people came to California following this find in 1849. Standing in the freezing water of the same river with a gold pan in hand, I will never be able to fully comprehend what was at stake for these people who risked it all.