Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Saguaro National Park, is an edition of fine art photographs from artist Lincoln Schatz. Featuring the distinctive landscapes of the Sonoran desert in the American Southwest. Schatz began photographing for this edition in early spring of 2023 and this series continues his work on and in deserts, as well as his continued engagement with the National Parks system of the United States.
Each year in spring the desert flourishes from dormancy. Triggered by rains and warming temperatures hillsides, covered with stone outcroppings and rugged terrain, burst forth with life. The iconic saguaro cactus stud the valley floor. Jutting from the earth in vertical columns. Creating a rhythm and pattern that stretch across the land.
Saguaro National Park is bifurcated by the city of Tucson, Arizona and is named for the cactus which is only native to the Sonoran Desert. Schatz was captivated by the fascinating forms of plant life that can be found here. Their ability to survive is remarkable. The harsh conditions are reflected in their growth and form, most featuring necessary adaptations that are required in order to survive on these lands.
Resources are scarce in the desert. And while conditions are harsh, as you can see in these photographs, flora abounds. Cacti have evolved over time to survive in this landscape. The barbed spines that are found on the saguaro were originally leaves, but as regional conditions changed, the cactus evolved. Spines became a necessary defense against animals seeking access to the water reservoirs contained within the soft flesh. This landscape provides countless examples of the power of nature and the ways plants and animals, including humans, adapt to their environment.
Over thirty-five hundred plant species exist within Saguaro National Park alongside the namesake cactus. An astonishing number given the difficult conditions present here. The park itself includes two separate mountain ranges with many of the species that thrive here being essential for both continued soil and air quality in this region. When groups of these plants come together, as seen in several of the photographs, they create “life islands” in the desert landscape.
These islands function as oases from the ever present sun, heat and dry conditions of the desert. Providing plants and animals a place to thrive in their shade and improved conditions.
The city of Tucson is not the first time that people lived in this region of the Sonoran Desert. The Hohokam people first arrived here as early as two thousand years ago. Following their civilizations flourishing, an extended drought forced the Hohokam to abandon the desert. Leaving behind complex irrigation systems, farmlands and villages.
This section of desert wilderness has no overt visual trace of human intervention today. However, we know that the rock outcroppings and distant mountains I hike through have been navigational waypoints over the last several thousand years.
As I carefully move through the maze of cacti under the unrelenting sun and this piercing blue sky, I am connected to those who have previously traveled and lived in this place.
More recently the Apache lived in the Sonoran desert. Having arrived between the 12th and 16th centuries. Many of the larger saguaro cactus, would have witnessed the United States government’s violent assaults upon the Apache that culminated in a final set of conflicts in 1886, ending hundreds of years of the Apache living in these deserts. The interrelationship between the cactus, the landscape and the Apaches, much like the Hohokam, is profound. Their traces can still be seen today if you look closely.
We face new challenges in contemporary times and with these challenges come choices about how we proceed. We can live in a symbiotic kinship with nature as temporary stewards; wherein we can conserve this world for future generations or we can cause further harm and damage. The saguaro cactus seen here, have featured heavily in news stories of 2023, with descriptions of this incredible cacti collapsing under weather conditions they can no longer survive as a result of climate change.
I am deeply grateful to all the people who had the foresight and determination to make the Saguaro National Park a reality. It is this sort of work that is essential to protecting the incredible natural world we are a part of today.
Saguaro National Park was initially designated a National Monument by Herbert Hoover on March 1st, 1933 and would become a National Park in 1994. The designation by Hoover was the result of work by conservationists and scientists at universities in the region. Concerned with Tucson’s rapid growth and development they leapt into action. Helping to protect the fast disappearing desert and the now federally protected saguaro cactus.
The saguaro cactus that stud the landscape at frequent intervals, stand in witness to the park that surrounds them in the photographs of Schatz. A mature saguaro, upwards of fifty feet in height, may range in age from 125 to 175 years old. The cactus are slow to grow, patiently waiting for rain in the brief periods where precipitation is possible. The desert demands patience. It can take a decade for this cactus to grow an inch. Their interiors hold reservoirs of water to help keep them alive during periods of drought and winter dormancy. The spines and thick skins protect them from animals. The entire cactus is a study in adaptation and survival.
Golden hour arrives in the desert. The late light of day casts a warm glow that causes long shadows to stretch from the bases of the cactus in this final set of photographs from Schatz. Creating patterns of light and shadow in the sand and soil of the Sonoran. It’s possible to imagine what this place could have looked like, a hundred, two hundred or two thousand years ago when looking at these photographs by Lincoln Schatz. Bridging time to create a portrait of the desert as it is today.
Saguaro National Park is a collection of limited edition photographs now available to purchase. For more information on the edition, including edition and photograph size, framing, and pricing please click here. If you are interested in purchasing these works, please be in touch.