“What am I doing here?” is a question that returns time and again to Phoenix-based photographer William LeGoullon as he makes his way through the Mojave and Sonoran deserts that blanket the American Southwest. The desert is, he suggests, by definition a place unsettled by man, and yet throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and California, he has discovered moments in which the wilderness and humankind meet, do battle, and in some rare cases, become reconciled to one another. Nearing Dissonance is his record of the desert not as it was in the days of Manifest Destiny but as it is today, suspended in an uncertain and precarious struggle with mankind.
For LeGoullon, the desert holds the weight of centuries of idealization and reverence while succumbing to the very real influences of human development. He’s pulled to landscapes that rest at the peripheries of urban settlements, at the border between that which is feral and domesticated. The land has become not only the photographer’s playground but also his protagonist, his hero, and his sometime adversary. As we force the earth into submission, he trusts that the desert fights back, holding fast to the arid, hot, and inhospitable terrain.
Whether he spends hours or days hiking in the desert, the photographer admits that he finds no answers or solutions to its riddles. It’s an enigmatic space wherein the passage of time is marked not only by tumbleweeds but also by footprints that eventually fade away. The only certainty is nothing remains forever. “I don’t have a full grasp on why I am attracted to the desert, I just know, I am,” concludes the artist.
All images © William LeGoullon