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Mark Ruwedel | nga

Mark Ruwedel (American, b. 1954) is a photographer who examines the interaction between society and the landscape of the western United States, creating works that are in his words “about the interrogation of human values, not only about beauty or geology.” Active as a professional photographer since the 1970s, Ruwedel has often focused on nature’s reclamation of land over time, as in the series Westward the Course of Empire (1994–2007), in which he turned his lens to the faint traces of the railroad lines that once snaked through the West. His photographs capture the dramatic cuts through landmasses, scattered remains of trestles, and the lingering imprint of the long-forsaken tracks in the subtle grade of the terrain. Ruwedel’s more recent series Dusk (2007–2010), a study of derelict houses in the California desert, similarly addresses the relationship between natural and built environments. In these projects and others Ruwedel examines the landscape not to marvel at its splendor, but rather to better understand how history is written into its topography.