The Navajo people call Antelope Canyon the cave of the wind people. As I hike deep into this narrow slot canyon in the blistering Arizona August heat, even the slightest movement of air gives me chills. Temperatures drop and rise around every bend. There is no sign of life, and yet, the whole place seems alive around me. In the absence of sound, the cathedral hush, I start to believe I hear the wind people whispering.
The Navajo guide I hired knows better than to talk much in this sacred place of his people. The very fact that I, a White person who grew up in a different world entirely, 5000 miles away, is even granted access to this temple of stone, fills my soul with gratitude. To be allowed to tap my artisan well to try and capture in a photograph a place I visited in my dreams a thousand times over, a place where the visible and invisible blend into one hallucinatory sight, is privilege beyond belief.
As my eyes and mind start to adjust to this perplexing inversion of land and its varying shades of deeply radiant red, I start to see meaning in every bewildering outline of rock. Science tells me that these walls have been shaped by wind and water and time. And yet, science — through no fault of its own — fails to explain this place, a shortcoming I gladly accept. Here, in a world where light and shape and movement and time all blend into a mosaic of curiosity and desire, reason is no longer a prerequisite for being. Rather, this is a rare invitation to question what the ardent eye is seeing, without the need for an answer labeled right or wrong.
My mind reminds me that I am not the first to see this virginal pathway to wonder, and yet I wonder if others saw what I see now? Sure, these walls seem stoic — carved over the course of centuries and yet defying the very concept of time. But they also seem ever-changing, as if by the whim of the wind, the whole place might alter its appearance instantaneously, like a kaleidoscope would. Watching in buddhistic trance the thin, aqueous light bounce around these barren canyon walls, we are invited to find fortitude and clarity in a place that asks more questions than it offers answers. How could there be any more meaning?
Official Selection, 2021 Tokyo International Photography Awards
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