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Janet Pritchard: 2016 Finalist

Yellowstone National Park is an iconic American landscape that helped to define national character in the 19th century and remains a place of wonder and the embodiment of landscape preservation as an ideal. In More Than Scenery: Yellowstone, an American Love Story I follow three threads of inquiry, a form of visual triangulation where each inquiry surveys the Yellowstone story from a different vantage point.

Views from Wonderland depicts visitors in our time. Many feel wonder when visiting this landscape, and these photographs capture that experience, giving the viewer a taste of what it is like to be there. Collecting Yellowstone depicts objects in archives and expressions of popular culture. Here reminders of the special role Yellowstone plays as a national symbol, as an ideal, are made visible. Stories from the Ecosystem depicts Yellowstone’s natural history wonders and sites of management complexities. People are drawn to Yellowstone to see its wonders, but the notoriously complex management and resource issues keep Yellowstone safe.

When the threads are woven together, viewers will see wonders layered with present day realities, while historical treasures and popular culture push against preservation and management complexities; the voices of many are present. My methodology—termed historical empathy by a colleague in history—grounds my image making in historical and archival research and helps me see the landscape with new eyes. These visual strategies yield a fuller, more complex, and nuanced picture of Yellowstone.

More Than Scenery photographically maps the terrain of Yellowstone National Park as a real and ideal landscape, as a public and a personal landscape across generations, weaving diverse images with original text, quotations, and maps to create a community of observations and ideas, much like a visual ecosystem, supporting my thesis that Yellowstone National Park is indeed more than scenery. —Janet Pritchard

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