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Great Plains Rat Snake, Tucson, AZ

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Grey Fox

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Petrified Wood, Quartzsite, AZ

Melbourne-based photographer Rebecca Najdowski has loved the the desert since her first memories of a childhood spent under the New Mexico sun. She knows intimately the minerals that make up the desert floor, the bugs and furry critters that skitter across it, and the expansive blue sky that envelops all who trod the dry terrain. For Desert Pictures, she captures the landscape of the American West unlike any of her ancestors would have, replacing panoramic vistas with electric, neon photograms made by placing found objects and organisms directly onto photo-sensitive paper.

When asked what compels her to return the desert, Najdowski says simply that she feels a “charge” when she enters its midst. These photograms, along with the video and lumen prints she also created for the project, were completed at the University of Arizona, where Najdowski was the Artist Fellow at the Center for Creative Photography. Here, she had access not only to the desert landscapes of Tucson, where she gathered specimens ranging from prickly pear cacti to a fallen barn owl who had sadly been killed on the roadside, but also to the the university’s research facilities and labs that housed samples of minerals and organic materials.

Once she gathered articles of desert minerals, flora, and fauna, Najdowski headed to the color darkroom, where she set them either on on photographic paper or within the enlarger itself. Each resultant frame is comprised of multiple exposures made under various color filters to produce a vibrant cacophony of light and color. What interests her, she suggests, is not representing a reality of what lies before us but rather inventing new ways of engaging with our surroundings. Her photograms, ultimately, are no less landscape pictures than those of traditionalists, transforming what we believe to be concrete into something far more abstracted and ephemeral. Perhaps these magnetic images record not the desert itself but the indelible imprint—as Najdowski would say, the “charge”—that the arid space makes upon the human psyche.

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Salazaria, Tucson, AZ

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Olivine, San Carlos, AZ

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Copper, Cochise Co, AZ

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Cardon, NW Mexico

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Smithsonite, San Louis Potosi, Mexico

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Aragonite, Junction Shaft, Bisbee, AZ

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Ponderosa Pine, New Mexico

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Nest (Likely Oriole)

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Barn Owl, Highway 8, CA

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Aleppo Pine

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