People of the West Desert
People of the West Desert
Craig Denton

$21.95 paper
Published: 1999

ISBN 978-0-87421-262-4
208 pages

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People of the West Desert

Finding Common Ground

Craig Denton

Also by Craig Denton: Bear River: Last Chance to Change Course

The West Desert is what Utahns call the basin and range salt desert in the eastern Great Basin. This arid region first caught the attention of photo documentarian and author Craig Denton when voices from it spoke out against turning over large desert valleys to roving MX missiles. Intrigued by the region, its people, and their choices, Denton began documenting who they were, why they were there, and how they lived.

Their reasons for living in one of the harshest and driest environments in America are diverse. Most prefer it to life in cities they fled or avoid. Paiutes and Gosiutes hold on to the reserved remainder of their homeland. Multi-generation ranching families have longtime footholds near springs and other water sources. Elsewhere, religious communitarians nurture devout young musicians, rangers conserve parts of the fragile environment, fundamentalist survivalists fight the taxman for their homestead, prospectors pick over old mines, students meditate at a philosophical retreat founded in the 1930s, a conservationist single-handedly revegetates a mine-scarred mountain range, and others pursue their own particular visions of a better life in the desert.

These people, different as some of them may be, private as many of them are, have the same needs for community all of us have. They must find common ground. Their efforts occur at the intersection of the Old and New West and pose new questions for the future of the American Dream.

Denton portrays the regional society and people of the West Desert with insightful profiles of their lives and their world, probing discussion of common concerns, and striking photographs.

Craig Denton is associate professor of communication at the University of Utah. He has exhibited and published his photographs widely and is the author of Graphics for Visual
and of many articles for the popular and trade press on photography and graphic design.