This September, photographers Owen Gump and Peter De Lory stayed at PLAYA in a collaborative residency. As they explored the high desert, as their studio walls filled with images they’d made on the playa and beyond, staff and residents alike felt privileged to view the landscape through Owen’s and Peter’s eyes. Owen Gump grew up on the California coast, has studied and gathered images around the world, and lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. In an interview with Diango Hernandez, Owen has said, “Parts of my artistic practice stemmed from a very early interest in literature . . . I believe timeless works, in art, as in literature or music are those where meaning at first remains elusive, which keep giving even after repeated reading.” Peter De Lory began making photographs of the landscape in Cape Cod at the age of 16. “Growing up on a sparse, thin spit of sand surrounded by ocean anchored my spirit to the land,” he says. We’re glad Owen and Peter chose to spend time on this particular piece of terra firma, capturing images that keep giving new perspective on the spirit of this place.
Peter and Owen, what led you to PLAYA?
Owen had been a resident in 2017 and was interested in returning with a collaborative project. We had discussed collaborating before, however, this was always difficult geographically given we both live in different parts of the country. Owen believed the setting and interdisciplinary nature of the residency would be a good opportunity for us to explore working collaboratively.
Did you come to work on a specific project? If so, did you make progress on it?
Yes and no. We both came with several bodies of work in need of editing; our idea for the residency was to do this collaboratively, in contrast to how we usually work. We both made progress on our individual projects, but more importantly laid the foundation for a new project we intend to complete together, one dealing with the “taxonomy” of the North American landscape, how it’s seen, interpreted, and defined. This was a direct result of places we photographed around PLAYA and the conversations we had there.
How do you think the land and waterscapes here affected your work?
This process is ongoing, and we believe the effects are still being played out and will no doubt make themselves visible in our work. The land and waterscapes of the Summer Lake basin definitely stayed with us, even after leaving the residency. We were struck by how visible geology is in this region: things one usually only reads about were right in front us, visible, present, and impossible to ignore.
Describe a typical day at PLAYA.
Morning: Wake up with the sun, coffee, journal on the cabin porch overlooking the pond. Bird watching, visit from the neighbor’s cat, short walk down to the playa if weather permits. Breakfast and make plans for the day. Visit the Commons and check in with residents or PLAYA staff. Late morning: studio time, edit, review work, studio visits and discussions with other residents if desired. Lunch on the veranda. Coffee.
Afternoon: Usually a short excursion–drive to Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge, Winter Rim, Paisley Caves, surrounding National Forest lands, hike and photograph until evening.
Evening: Dinner—either cooked together or a shared meal in the Commons with other residents. Sunset watching on veranda, discuss the day, ideas for work, tasks at hand. Return to studio and review the day’s photographs, read a good book before bed and then deep, deep sleep.
What were some highlights for you?
Exploring the area around PLAYA, the numerous petroglyph and caves sites in Lake County and Fremont Point on the Winter Rim. But most memorable was our contact with other residents, the opportunity for conversations and sharing our work, in particular with the writers who were in residence with us. The place and setting definitely contributed to these exchanges across different disciplines. All the residents seemed to engage with the setting in their own unique ways, and sharing these observations was definitely a highlight. And watching the dust storms form and dissipate over the playa.
Peter ends with a comment fitting for an image maker: “I’m not a man of written words . . . but PLAYA was a valuable experience and reflective for my practice.”
Edge effects in ecological science are the “influences of border communities upon each other” (Brittanica.com). PLAYA alumni, friends, guests, and neighbors are invited to submit blog posts that explore the diverse influences experienced here or because of time spent with us—whether the effects are among disciplines, environments, relationships, or communities. Email PLAYA’s Executive Director to join this conversation.