Taking a trip across a barren desert with your brother might not seem like the best idea. Mark Twain didn’t think so as he traversed Utah in 1861, but the experience informed his American classic, the travelogue Roughing It. Intrigued by Twain’s bad idea, MacDowell Fellow Dan Torop decided to pack his bags and his camera and take the journey himself. He lived to tell about it — and make sense of the photographs he shot — during his residency in MacDowell’s Cheney Studio. The result is Alkali Desert, an exhibition of photographs exploring the spare and haunting terrain Twain described, as it appears in the modern day. The project is slated to appear in full in the online magazine, Triple Canopy, and will travel from Brooklyn to Memphis and then on to Wendover, Utah, for permanent installation at the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Find out how Torop made the most of Twain's bad idea to, as he puts it, “trail a subject at the margins of description.”
Torop, a photographer and video artist based in Brooklyn, NY, teaches studio art at NYU.