True Western by Joseph Brennan

Along the Arizona-Utah border, just off Highway 163 and deep within the Navajo reservation there lies a series of stratified plateaus, which sit like great fists of rock, pounding a docile plain.  It looks like something out of a movie, and it is.

| Glen Canyon, Arizona-Utah, image by Joseph Brennan 2012 |

The imagery of Monument Valley is synonymous with the concept of the Old West, and by the same token it is hard to see a photo of the vast sandstone buttes, and not picture a pioneer darting in between, shooting for the honour of some cowgirl in distress.

| John Ford’s The Searchers, 1956, film still |

John Ford directed no less than seven Westerns in these surrounds, most notably Stagecoach and The Searchers, both upgrading the formerly B-grade John Wayne. Beyond the exterior narrative of these films, filled with virtually mute female characters and stereotyped ‘Indians’, there is an underlying theme of the lone man dwarfed by both the majesty and deadly nature of the landscape around him. For Wayne may rescue his niece and dramatically carry her through the desert, but he is a mere speck in comparison to the looming mesas at his side. And therein lies the vulnerability of the protagonist that elevates Ford’s view of the Wild West.

| Glen Canyon, Arizona-Utah, image by Joseph Brennan 2012 |

Joseph Brennan

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