Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe: Conversation and Book Signing

Rock formations on the road to Lee's Ferry, AZ, 2008. Left Inset: William Bell, 1872. Plateau North of the Colorado River near the Paria. Right Inset: William Bell, 1872. Headlands North of the Colorado River.

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
2008
Courtesy National Archives

Arizona’s Grand Canyon—natural wonder, sacred land, national park, tourist attraction—is perhaps the world’s best “photo op.”  Hearing the name brings to mind vividly colored, striated rock, the earth dropping away to the Canyon’s invisible depths. But what is the source of the image that springs into our imagination? Is it a nineteenth century survey drawing of the Canyon’s horizontal sweep? Or the black-and-white photographs Ansel Adams made in the 1940s? Perhaps it is the anonymous color postcard picked up at a souvenir stand, or a snapshot from a family vacation?

In 2007, photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe headed to the Grand Canyon to grapple with the many image-makers who had visited the site before. Klett, a Regents Professor at Arizona State University, and Wolfe, a former student of Klett’s who is now a Lantis’ University Professor at California State University at Chico, began rephotographing historic images together in 1997, dramatically expanding their interpretation of rephotography. They analyzed the work of eight practitioners as well as that of numerous anonymous photographers. During summer field work at the Grand Canyon, they identified the exact locations portrayed in historic photographs and drawings. From those geographic points they created new photographs that incorporate the original view. Digital versions of the historic images are inserted within the contemporary photograph, creating sweeping panoramas that convey the big picture surrounding earlier artists’ depicted views.

Norton Family Curator Rebecca Senf will lead Klett and Wolfe in a discussion of their working process, their recent Grand Canyon project and book, and what’s on their horizon. The conversation will be followed by an opportunity to purchase the new book “Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe.”