Background: Glen Canyon
In 1960 the Santa Fe poet Spud Johnson invited Porter to join him on a rafting trip down the Colorado River through Glen Canyon in southeastern Utah. The canyon's confluence of intimacy and geological monumentality instantly mesmerized the artist. But the canyon was about to be inundated by water behind a nearly completed dam. On seeing Porter's initial photographs of the canyon, Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower engaged the photographer to quickly assemble a book that would make vivid the beauty being lost in this little-visited landscape. As Porter created more photographs, the two men worked together to build a sequence and locate resonant accompanying quotations. Upon its publication in mid-1963, Brower sent The Place No One Knew to President Johnson, Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, and every member of Congress, with a plea not to complete and implement the Glen Canyon Dam. Although the book did not stop that closure, it built important public and government support for limiting further dam construction on western rivers. Just as important, this experience revealed to Porter how his photographs could be used in the service of a cause without diminishing their artistic integrity. The book also helped jumpstart the Sierra Club's transformation into an international environmental force and gave Porter a new career identity. He now concentrated on creating extended photographic portraits of diverse natural sites, first in the United States and then across the world. While he would never stop making fine quality prints, books became his main way to make a living and share his vision.

Porter continued to visit Glen Canyon even after completing The Place No One Knew. He made eleven trips through the canyon between 1960 and 1965. Working with a 2--inch camera while rafting and a 4-by-5-inch camera on land, he shot more than 1000 images of water, rock faces, and canyon plants, building an extended portrait comprised of details rather than expansive views. Reveling in the canyon's brilliant plays of light, he let colors go as they might rather than seek exact replication. He also blended abstraction more assertively with reality. As the canyon filled with water, he focused at times on brush and algae-strewn puddles of water, emphasizing the ugliness brought by the inundation. In 1966 the Sierra Club published a revised edition of the book. Subsequent revised editions were published in 1988 and 2000 by Gibbs Smith Publishers. The Porter collection holds approximately 400 dye transfer prints of Glen Canyon.

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