Photographic Tour of "Iconic Arizona"

December 26, 2011

MARK BRODIE: This is KJZZ's Morning Edition, I’m Mark Brodie…and I’ve got a question for you. What is iconic Arizona?  Kind of a daunting question, right?  So first, let’s hear from someone who’s already tackled it.

BECKY SENF: "My name is Becky Senf and I’m the Norton Family Curator of Photography at the Phoenix Art Museum."

MARK BRODIE: Senf put together the Iconic Arizona exhibit, which features 70 photos of 13 sites around the state.  And, she picked those 70 photos out of more than 3,000 images of Arizona at her disposal.

BECKY SENF: "One of the ideas that came up was this notion of providing a tour of iconic places in this state. And, the question was, is that too corny? Is it too silly to do that? But, actually, I think that when you’re celebrating, that’s the perfect time to be corny, and have fun and really play."

MARK BRODIE: Senf says the exhibit is meant to help celebrate the state’s centennial.  It includes photos by both Arizonans and visitors to the state, .images in black and white and color and pictures ranging from 1904 through the 2000's.  There are, of course, photos of the Grand Canyon, but you can also see Meteor Crater, Hoover Dam, Monument Valley and Mission San Xavier del Bac.  But when you think of iconic photographers and Arizona, one name usually comes to mind…

BECKY SENF: "Ansel Adams"

MARK BRODIE: Yup…that guy.

BECKY SENF: "One of the first things that I thought about when doing an Arizona show was including Ansel Adams, because he’s such a well-known, famous landscape photographer, and he loved Arizona, and did a lot of photography in this state. So I was actually able to use as much Ansel Adams as I wanted, but I wanted a lot of diversity in the show, too."

MARK BRODIE: So, Senf says she used his photos judiciously, often to show classic images.  She points to one he took of Canyon de Chelly, in northeastern Arizona.

BECKY SENF: "Often with Ansel Adams, what you’re looking for, even if you’re not aware of it, is his use of light, and the way in which, in this particular picture, you have this pool of light in the middle of the photograph, the foreground is darker, there’s shadows from the clouds in the background, and that use of light is something that he was particularly exceptional at. And so, it gives you this overview sense of Canyon de Chelly, but it’s still very dynamic – there’s a lot of movement within the picture, a lot of interest and texture and darks and lights and a lot to keep your attention."

MARK BRODIE: Senf says the goal of the exhibit was not to show off the 70 best photos, but to display those that show different perspectives of the state, and get people talking about what is iconic in Arizona.  And, that’s where you come in.

BECKY SENF: "One of the things that we wanted to do with this exhibition is to invite members of our audience to submit their own photographs of Arizona, pictures that answer the question, ‘What’s your iconic Arizona?'"

MARK BRODIE: That means all the Ansel Adams wannabees out there can upload their own photos to the Phoenix Art Museum website. They’re displayed online, and on touch screen monitors inside the exhibit.  Senf says people submitted more than 300 photos over the exhibit’s first few weeks.

BECKY SENF: "I’m the one who gets to review all the pictures as they get submitted to the website, and it has been such fun seeing how members of our community interpret the state, and bring their perspectives into the exhibition.

MARK BRODIE QUESTION: Has anything surprised you about what you’ve seen coming in?
BECKY SENF ANSWER: Oh, I’m constantly surprised. There are all sorts of things that I hadn’t expected. One of the very first pictures to come in was of a rodeo, and it just hadn’t occurred to me."

MARK BRODIE: Senf says she’s thinking about how to use the photos after the exhibit ends…it’ll be at the Phoenix Art Museum through March.

More information about Iconic Arizona, including photos submitted by the public, and instructions for uploading your images

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