Martin Hogue


On his book Thirtyfour Campgrounds

Cover Interview of November 01, 2016

A close-up

Thirtyfour Campgrounds is a large volume featuring an eye-popping 6,200 individual illustrations, most of them in color. The systematic arrangement of the campsite photographs in grids across the book (6,500 campsites, 48 per page) in ascending numerical order by site number lays bare the administrative foundation of these campgrounds, their coordinate systems of driving loops and addresses: Assateague Bayside 2.033; Cheney M+M Point 029; Watchman loop D, 007; Oh! Ridge 017, Bear loop. Missing campsite photographs are simply identified by blank spaces within the grids. To bring these campgrounds of all sizes and from all across the map into a coherent, linear sequence, the 34 facilities are arranged numerically by zipcode, from Seawall campground in Acadia National Park (04679) to Fort Stevens State Park campground (97121).

The reader may first find that no single page or section of the book stands out: indeed Thirtyfour Campgrounds can be entered from just about any page and read forward, or in reverse. A chartreuse-colored ribbon serves as a placeholder among the endless repetition of dull, impersonal photographs. Taken by anonymous staffers of varying skill, the role of each photograph is not to capture the broader context of the campground but to document the campsite as a piece of real estate—a generic setting of utilities.

But the repetition soon makes way for subtle differences. Textures of soil, shrubs, and foliage are revealed. Broad landscape features take shape in the background across consecutive photographs. Time reveals itself in fading light and passing clouds, the color of leaves, or the unexpected weather changes between photographs of neighboring sites.

By looking in between the exposures, as it were, a new reality begins to take shape.