I had visited Big Bend National Park before, with the family, whilst I was living in Dallas, Texas. This time (1991) I ventured west with ten or so photographers and three models. We camped overnight at Monahans Sand Hills and the following morning started with ‘nudes in the dunes.’
At Monahans one leaves the Interstate and heads south for Persimmon Gap and the Emery Peak (7,835 feet) en route to Big Bend. Early afternoon saw us stopping in the small, bright, dusty, windswept southwest Texas town of Marathon (the group leader knew a gallery owner there). I recall it seemed like siesta time, only the stray dog venturing out in the heat. The centre of town was where the steam railroad trains stopped in their heyday, to pick up water – not that long ago. The concrete stand remained that had supported the water tower. The water container itself had long been removed and probably used elsewhere to store precious rainwater, but the concrete pillars remained, standing defiant against the sun.
I had recently discovered Kodak infra-red, and with the appropriate light it seemed the right choice and was the only film I used on this subject. I shot a side-angle view, and this straight-on view. All around was very high-key, thus filling in all the shadow areas.
The crisp railroad track across the image gave a solid base to sit the frame around. The corroded column on the left was balanced by the strange tree on the right, and the angular distant barn provided a pivot to move around. All these ‘framing’ elements came together in an unexpected way: the ultimate effect was ethereal, magical and with an Oriental quality.
From that trip to Big Bend National Park, this is the only image that I printed again and again, and it is a favourite for many.