Into the Land of Our Dreams

Richard Avedon turns an unsparing lens on the American West

The Western states are to Americans what America so often is to the rest of the world, a myth-encrusted land of possibilities. Considered by the imagination, the plains of Texas and the deserts of Utah invite dreams of a footloose future. They promise a fugitive's paradise: not Arcadia, but a clean slate. The dreams are fed by novels and movies and by the bromides of Sunbelt boosterism. They are also prompted by more than a century of Western landscape photography, from the 19th century panoramas of William Henry Jackson and Carleton Watkins to the raptures of Ansel Adams. Such sources fed...

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