GHOSTS OF THE WEST
Lost mines, abandoned diggings, ghost towns...
The very words conjure enigmatic images of the Old West; for as long as there has been a United States, the western frontier has remained that vast Unknown where epic adventures could and did occur. In truth, the history of the lands between the Great Plains and the Pacific Ocean is as complex as any masterwork of fiction, and as spectacular as the awe-inspiring vistas that served as its stage. One need only visit any of the near-forgotten sites that hide, isolated, out in the mountains and deserts of the American West to be filled with a sense of wonder.
My fascination with the subject began at the age of nine, when in a classroom 1,700 miles from the distant Continental Divide I happened upon an adolescent mystery tale about a ghost town and lost mine. Still it was not until as an adult, when I hiked into a silver camp in the Elk Mountains, that the seed planted in my childhood sprouted and grew. Standing before the weathered facade of an 1880s hotel, I could not help but feel that the old building somehow stared back at me; and I wondered what those vacant windows had seen in the days when the long abandoned town bustled with life and the mere rumor of a strike could send men scrambling through unexplored, trackless wilderness.
More than a century later, what remains of the towns and camps stand as visual echoes of a legendary history firmly embedded in the American consciousness; and it has been both my pleasure and honor for the past two decades to walk their silent streets and photograph the ghosts of their former selves.
Background photo: Writer-Director E. S. Knightchilde photographed on location by Karl Johnson.
© 2009 Karl Johnson, scapephotography.com Used with permission. All rights reserved.