Phantom Skies and Shifting Ground: Landscape, Culture, and Rephotography in Eadweard Muybridge's Illustrations of Central America

Field Notes

The following are two field note essays, one of which is included in the print version of Phantom Skies and Shifting Ground. The book includes eleven separate field note essays on different thematic elements that emerge from revisiting the sites of many of the original photographs - benchmarks that establish a particular perspective of a place and time.

Field notes overview by Dr. Scott Brady

For cultural geographers, every landscape has a story. We draw from geology and climatology to understand a landscape’s earliest, pre-human, chapters; archaeology and pollen analysis suggest how early peoples created the following chapters; old documents, maps and photographs bring us closer to a landscape’s present incarnation.

During our field work, I treated Muybridge’s photographs as records of past landscapes. In the field I looked for traces of the past, observed what had been replaced, and tried to understand how the present landscape had come to be. My essays reflect that approach. They also reflect the nature of the collaboration between Byron and me. I had questions about sites. So did Byron. Some of my essays are responses to our questions. Because many of these questions emerged while in the field, I chose to write my essays in the voice of one who is in the landscape.

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  1. Selections from notes recorded while in the field (2006).