Photographer Terry Evans seems fascinated by systems, whether it’s the interconnectedness of the prairie, or of steel mills, with their web of necessary raw materials, that now crouch on land that used to be prairie.
Her prairie work goes back to March 1978, when Evans, then living in Kansas, was asked to photograph some survey work that Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, was doing on a nearby prairie. “My visits started in early March and as the spring progressed and grasses and legumes and other plants emerged from the ground, I began to see the rich ecological diversity of a prairie,” she says. “This was my first experience of seeing an undisturbed ecosystem and I was almost overcome with passion to know it better. Its subtle beauty completely captured me. I came every day to photograph the ground.”
Evans says she shot 4,000 black-and- white negatives of the ground before she got around to including color and the horizon line a year later. Soon after, she began photographing from above the ground, usually in a small airplane (though sometimes a helicopter), where the layout of the landscape became as important as the details. “I was noticing organic patterns on the ground and began to wonder what they would look like from 1,000 feet,” she explains. “And I became taken with how interconnected everything appears from the air. You get this very interesting way of putting a picture together: the patterns and relationships, scale and distance. Formal spatial relationships fascinate me.”