Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs, p164, Little, Brown and Co. (excerpted)
Manzanar, the site of one of the World War II relocation camps, is about fifteen miles north of Lone Pine. While I was photographing in and around the camp in 1943 and 1944 I made some of my best images. I knew the region well; it is roughly 150 miles from Yosemite over the Tioga Pass – or 400 road miles southward when the Tioga is closed by snow.
While at Manzanar for a fortnight in the winter of 1944, Virginia and I arose very early in the mornings and drove to Lone Pine with hopes of a sunrise photograph of the Sierra. After four days of frustration when the mountains were blanketed with heavy cloud, I finally encountered a bright, glistening sunrise with light clouds streaming from the southeast and casting swift moving shadows on the meadow and the dark rolling hills.
I set up my camera on my car platform at what I felt was the best location, overlooking a pasture. It was very cold – perhaps near zero – and I waited, shivering, for a shaft of sunlight to flow over the distant trees. A horse grazing in the frosty pasture stood facing away from me with exasperating, stolid persistence. I made several exposures of moments of light and shadow, but the horse was uncooperative, resembling a distant stump. I observed the final shaft of light approaching. At the last moment, the horse turned to show its profile, and I made the exposure. Within a minute the entire area was flooded with sunlight and the natural chiaroscuro was gone.
The negative of Winter Sunrise is rather complex to print. It is a problem of agreeable balance between the brilliant snow on the peaks and the dark shadowed hills.
I have often thought what a privilege it would be to live and work in this environment, perhaps best before the turn of the century when the efforts of man brought more beauty to the land than now, with our pavements, wires, contrails, and desolation. This photograph suggests a more agreeable past and may remind us that, with a revived dignity and reverence for the earth, more of the world might look like this again.