“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

—John Muir

As a medium, photography is first and foremost indexical: it has the power to show in great and extremely precise detail exactly what sits in front of the camera. Yet it has another communicative level as well—the level of feeling. Photographer Debra Bloomfield has photographed landscapes across North America: in the desert, in the ocean, and now the forested wilderness. With each new subject, she strives to look past or through her subjects’ immediately visible beauty towards a deeper well of immersive, indefinable emotion. In her latest book, Wilderness, we see the forests and the trees, but what we feel is that unique sense of well-being, of stillness, of unity that is so purely and simply expressed in nature.

Indeed, as we contemplatively leaf through Wilderness, we find ourselves wordlessly pulled away from our comfortable, seated positions and drawn into an ambient sense of Bloomfield’s world—the sky, the leaves, the light, the solitude. This effect is achieved not only through the book’s images, but through its accompanying soundscapes. When Bloomfield was beginning the project, she found herself attracted by a haunting but unnameable sound, a noise she later identified as the call of a raven. Inspired, she began making recordings of her walks, even of her journeys out into the wilderness (by car, by boat). The recordings, which come in a companion CD, permeate our engagement with the book’s still images, allowing us to sink deeper into the environments that Bloomfield so powerfully evokes.

Bloomfield’s landscapes, throughout her career, have consistently blurred the line between photography, painting and personal memory. At their most resonant, her images transcend limiting categorizations—”landscape” or “color photography”—and reach that rarified place of pure “art.” In other words, a universally felt expression of beauty, emotion, and being.

—Alexander Strecker


Wilderness by Debra Bloomfield
Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
Hardcover: 128 pages