Over the course of millennia, the John Day River cut a deep canyon through central Oregon to reveal dramatic columnar basalt walls. Formed when massive volcanic flows cooled, contracted and cracked, these exposed surfaces record the slow unfolding of geologic time and the forces of nature they have witnessed.
The wall was captured with high-resolution images that were printed, cut, laminated, reassembled and mounted at three-quarter scale of the original subject. This large-scale photographic sculpture both interprets the story and dimension of these raw surfaces and transmits the profound wonder of experiencing our natural world directly.
The wall is a backdrop to the reception at Knot Springs, a Portland social club centered around health, wellness and good times.
The original scouting shots were taken midway through a 70-mile river trip on the John Day in 2015.
Using Google Earth VR, the location of the wall was found on the river which is only accessible by a 3-4 day boat trip. To obtain the necessary high resolution images, a reshoot and another access was required.
Using county tax maps, a nearby ranch was identified and the owner was discovered through an online search. Permission was given to drive through their 50,000-acre ranch to make a hike-in possible.
The descent started at 5:30 AM so that the raking light at 7:30 could be captured—if the clouds lifted.
Google Earth VR helped identify a route to the wall which was a 1.5 hour descent.
Six different captures were obtained from different locations across the river.
The clouds lifted when the sun raked across the columns to accentuate the relief of the formations.
To obtain the amount of pixels needed for the large-scale print, many high-resolution images were taken with a panoramic head to increment the shots.
42 images were captured and stitched together to obtain make one high-resolution file.
The crop was selected and the seams were determined for printing.
Pushdot Studio printed 5 separate files on 44”-wide rolls of photo rag paper.
The prints were cut apart into thousands of pieces along the lines of the formations, fractures and facets of the wall.
As each piece was cut it was placed into position on another table.
Every edge of each piece was darkened to minimize paper-white outlines between the pieces in the final assemblage.
All the pieces were reassembled with archival mending tape.
Each panel was worked on independently throughout the process.
Hot rabbit skin glue was applied to the surface of each panel.
When the wet surfaces were dried, each piece curled to accentuate the topography of the imagery.
To reinforce the seams and preserve the relief of the surface, matte medium was applied to every seam on the reverse side.
Japanese gampi paper was adhered to the surface of each panel with rabbit skin glue.
Three of the panels were hung in the only part of the studio they could be. This was the only time that the work could be seen in its final orientation until the install.
Each of the five panels was assembled into one roll.
Thin layers of paint and stain were glazed onto the surface as the work was unrolled.
The wall was hoisted via pulleys and mounted with a french cleat.
Thanks to Mattea Schwab for her invaluable assistance throughout the entire project!