Mountains and Waters

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Judging by his book, Richard Long much prefers the foot to the wheel. MOUNTAINS AND WATERS clearly displays the many wonders of the world he encountered on extensive walks through England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Nepal, Spain, Washington state, Canada, Iceland, Bolivia, Japan, Switzerland, and the Sahara.

With few exceptions, his photographs are black and white. The absense of color seems appropriate for his expression of nature’s harsh beauty, and its desolate, pointed, and consuming features. Though he accompanies each photograph with a brief, almost poetic textual description of the walk that led him through the terrain, his presence is otherwise forgotten.

The presence of human life is hinted at in one photograph, “Day 11, Crossing the Dudh Kosi River for the First Time,” taken during a twnety-five day walk in Nepal in 1975: Three hand-painted pieces of cloth hang from a thick metal cord. Long captures animal life, specifically cows, grazing on an hill beside a road in Somerset, England; this same photo exhibits signs of human life in the road, road sign, and electrical wires. Otherwise, Long focuses on rock formations, stones, hills, and mountains and waters, as the title discloses.

The bare-boned, experimental text adds little to MOUNTAINS AND WATERS but filler space, a slight sense of orientation, and an eerie reminder that the rough-looking lands pictured in the photographs are walkable.