Stephen Strom’s photographs of the desert southwest attempt to capture what is nearly beyond the camera’s grasp. The province of description that attempts an encounter with that which is minute –a land shaped by millennial forces, to that which is immediate yet fleeting –the undulations of color and form in yesterday’s cloudburst.
Having spent his professional career as an astronomer Strom brings a particular sensibility to his images of the desert where he has lived for over twenty years. Using a 35mm or 4x5 view camera and long focal lengths lenses that compress vast desert spaces Strom’s images exercise the act of seeing and have a rendered quality that recalls Frederick Sommer’s packed edge to edge observation of a totality. Like Sommer, and Mark Klett, Strom’s use of the landscape as content testifies to that place between the continuous production of meaning within a simulated topography and the chronicling of the timeless vistas of nature. A place that belongs to neither photography nor reality, it is the place the artist occupies as emulator, imitator, and innovator.
Steven Strom’s has been exhibited widely and his imagery complements poems and essays in three books published by the University of Arizona Press: Secrets from the Center of the World, a collaboration with Muscogee poet Joy Harjo; Sonoita Plain: Views of a Southwestern Grassland, a collaboration with ecologists Jane and Carl Bock; and Tseyi (Deep in the Rock): Reflections on Canyon de Chelly, co-authored with Navajo poet Laura Tohe.