Can we see time? Our histories are told through landscapes as they change. Carleton Watkins was pulled to photograph Seal Rocks in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). I also feel a deep connection to this landscape. Some moments I have captured of the three iconic rocks seem to remain static calling back to his work, but the landscape within GGNRA has also transformed. I am drawn to the inherently ephemeral nature of shorelines. They are visual representations of time; the recession of the rugged coastline, erosion formed textures, and rising sea levels.
For the past seven years, I have been documenting the shoreline within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. My process is slow and methodical, surveying the area and capturing the landscape on black and white medium format film. This time spent in the landscape is important to my artistic process. I’m photographing at sunrise the majority of the time. The light is warm, soft, and diffused. The combination of the film, paper, developer and even the enlarger I use can produce a high contrast gelatin silver print. Therefore, I try to avoid high contrast shooting situations like high noon and full sun.
With millions of visitors in 2019, GGNRA was the most visited site in the National Park System. The human interaction, just like time, shapes the cultural landscape. My images lack or minimize the figure in the landscape. When they do appear, it’s deliberate. Showing how we interact with the landscape is important in this work. Growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, I was drawn to the rapidly changing landscape surrounding the Delaware River, located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. A heavily visited area for New York City and Philadelphia tourists, I could physically see time passing in the fragile landscape. Now living in San Francisco, I find that same relationship to the diverse coastal environment within GGNRA.