Mark Klett’s September 2000 photograph titled View from the Tent at Pyramid Lake is a 23×29 3/16 inch photo taken in the linear perspective. In the foreground, we see the inside of the tent where a camper’s outstretched legs lay upon a mat next to a few supplies. The foreground also displays the walls of the tent on the left and right sides of the image, somewhat of a negative space, with a triangular opening in the center. This opening is filled with the landscape of the lake which occupies the middle ground of the photo.
It shows a sandy beach right outside the tent just past the camper’s toes, still water slightly beyond the beach and the rocky pyramid across the lake. The background is a distant horizon line showing a mountainous Nevada landscape. When observing this photo words such as serene, peaceful, and relaxed come to mind as the person lays inside the tent observing the beautiful nature scene surrounding them. The subject and central focus of this photograph is clearly the landscape of Pyramid Lake.Order now
We can see the pyramid for which the lake is named centered and almost framed by the edges of the tent, where the lines seem to parallel the edges of the pyramid. This framing gives a strong composition allowing the geometry of nature to be exaggerated and fully emphasized. This pyramid is surrounded by the light blue skies and water creating a beautiful image for the viewer from the inside of the tent. The light gently touching the top of the pyramid gives the photo another element of beauty as the sun illuminates it ever so softly.
There is a great amount of depth to this photo created through the use of a pseudo negative space, being the tent walls, along with the mountains in the horizon laid just behind the pyramid. While the photo is not exactly vibrant and exciting, it conveys a beautiful image of a natural setting. The colors in the photo are not intensely saturated rather they are somewhat muted. The most prominent color in this photo is a greyish brown: the sand, the pyramid, and the walls of the tent.
Also there are subtle tints of blues, the water and the sky, and a few shades of yellows for highlighting. The color scheme is very simplistic and natural filled with earth tones. This photo has relatively low contrast, the shadows cover most of the photo with the exception of the top of the pyramid where there is a highlight. These value differences imply a setting or rising sun off to the left of the image frame. The person in this artwork would seem to be a free spirit, someone who is comfortable in nature and relaxed.
I arrived at this conclusion because of the way he casually lays in the tent gazing upon the lake. His feet are furthest from the camera and crossed in a way that look like he is kicked back and taking in the view. The photographer, geologist Mark Klett, is well known for his Western landscape photographs that speak of the passage of time and its impact on nature. Pyramid Lake, located in Nevada near Lake Tahoe, has a vast history being the remnants of one of North America’s largest lakes during the most recent ice age. Klett has a collection called Third View.
In this series, historical landscapes are rephotographed throughout time, Pyramid Lake being one of these landscapes. On the website there are 3 photos of the lake (taken in 1867, 1979 and 2000) that clearly show the deterioration of this lake with the water levels drastically decreasing and becoming more of a barren rocky place. Klett likes to remain aware of the observer’s participation in the environment, which is why we see the camper’s legs in the photo. This serves to remind us of our impact on the land and nature around us.
I believe that Klett is trying to convey the profound effect we have had on the changes that have occurred at this lake throughout time, what was once the deepest part of a vast lake is now a small reminder of what was once there. If I could speak to Klett, I would be curious to know if this photo was planned or just spur of the moment beauty. To me, it seems as if he had been photographing for his Third View collection, also done in 2000, and just snapped this particular photo while laying down after a day’s work.
Beyond this piece, I would be very curious about what inspired him to do all of the rephotographing. It intrigued me that he goes back and recreated old landscape photographs down to the specific camera angles, this seems like a very unique and interesting technique that gives a lot more value to these older and newer photographs by providing the comparisons. In the early 2000’s when this photograph was taken, there was a social push towards “going green ? and considering our effects as a society on our planet and the nature around us, commonly known as our carbon footprint.
After years of industrialization and growth, we as a society took a step back and started to realize how immensely our actions change and effect our planet. This is exactly what is meant by View from the Tent on Pyramid Lake. The camper in the photo is sitting back and observing and appreciating the natural landscape. But beyond appreciation we must be aware of preservation, upon discovery about the lake’s history we can clearly distinguish how we have affected this specific place through time.
The photo View from the Tent at Pyramid Lake conveys a strong message about the interaction between humans and nature. Through the use of a linear perspective in combination with other techniques, such as photographic composition and utilization of depth, the photo gives a dynamic yet simplistically beautiful depiction of Pyramid Lake. The implication of our role in nature is evident and clear by the context in which the photo was taken. We gain not only a great feeling from gazing upon this photo, but we are given some food for thought to take with us.
“Center for Creative Photography.” Mark Klett. University of Arizona, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.
Longmire, Stephen. “MARK KLETT: “Mark Klett, Photography, and the Reinvention of Landscape (2001).” Since 2008 AMERICAN SUBURB X Art Photography and Culture That Matters. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. . “Pace/MacGill Gallery | Details Page for Individual Art Works.” Pace/MacGill Gallery | Details Page for Individual Art Works. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.
Poon, Johnny. “Third View Rephotographs Navigation Map.” Third View Rephotographs Navigation Map. Anderson Ranch Arts Center, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.