Charlotte Niel Photography
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Myths in the Western Landscape

I started this project after a road trip through the western United States. While speeding down well marked highways, I imagined what it must have been like to arrive here in a covered wagon, across arid and remote terrain and the surprise and dismay of Native Americans who had to contend with settlers who wanted to transform and occupy land for which they were custodians for centuries.
 

Although awed by the landscape, I wanted to show more than just its beauty and vastness. I wanted to tell a story about those who once occupied this land. It turns out that the frontier story has many ugly truths hidden by the artwork and writings of the time. Artistic biases and prejudices of the day encouraged distortions and a blind eye to the cultural dominance, land grab, loss and displacement within the frontier experience reinforcing a persona of individualism, grit and entitlement that is still part of the American psyche today. This project is an attempt to expose some of the myths, omissions and truths of "How the West was won" by creating narratives using original artwork of the time and western landscapes I have photographed. It is an opportunity to dialogue and question the history of an idealized West, American myth and their impact on the national consciousness.

 

The images are printed on archival Kitakata paper producing an effect that is reminiscent of the photochrom printing process of the era.

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