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Reviewed by:
  • Dirt Meridian by Andrew Moore
  • Amanda Breitbach
Dirt Meridian. Photographs by Andrew Moore. Bologna, Italy: Damiani Publishers, 2015. 132 pp. $50.00 cloth.

Aerial photographs tend to make any landscape more abstract, and usually more distant. But that is not the case in Dirt Meridian, a new book by photographer Andrew Moore. Moore brings a tender perspective to his images of the American landscape along the one hundredth meridian, often considered the dividing line between fertile east and arid west.

Dwelling in the seldom-pictured heart of the Great Plains, a region sometimes called “flyover country,” Moore sensitively captures a vast, open land marked by a history of human use. Romantic views of stock ponds illuminated by golden light and cattlemen on horseback are balanced by images of crumbling homesteads, munitions storage bunkers, and barracks-style housing for oil-field workers. From a hawk’s-eye view, he shows us both the West of our imagination and the West that is. Back on the ground, carefully framed portraits and interiors fill in a complicated story about people and place.

The book reproduces seventy-two of Moore’s photographs, beautifully printed and accompanied by several thoughtful essays. Kent Haruf (late author of Plainsong) sets a contemplative, loving tone in the preface, writing of the Plains landscape, “It may not be pretty, but it’s beautiful if you know how to look at it.” An essay by Toby Jurovics, chief curator at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, places Moore in a lineage from the early survey photographers up through Robert Adams and Emmett Gowin, artists who helped redefine landscape photography by bringing human impact to the forefront. A second essay by Inara Verzemnieks, an assistant professor of English at the University of Iowa, serves as a written companion to the images, telling emotional stories of many of the people and places pictured and off ering us context.

Moore’s photographs give us an appreciation for the scale of the Plains landscape and a sense of perspective: people are small here. Images of abandoned schoolhouses and isolated windmills help us understand the tenuous [End Page 338] nature of agriculture in the region and the potential for human failure, while photographs of pipelines, gravel pits, and broken pivots reveal an economy dependent on extracting and exploiting natural resources. Together with these foreboding elements, Moore also gives us hope for the future. Portraits of young people raised on Plains ranches and grazing bison seem to point to a way forward. His book is an honest and unblinking document of the American Great Plains, full of quiet beauty, heartbreak, and hope.

Amanda Breitbach
Department of Art Truman State University


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pp. 338-339
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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