Memory of Water: The Salt River Project

The Salt River Project follows the Salt River from the recreation areas East of Phoenix out to the Gillespie Dam West of Phoenix. It is the story of an urban desert river. The project begins with the conceptual framework provided by high water marks. Clumps of dirt, plastic bags and plant growth five feet up in trees serve as a reminder that the dry riverbed is not dead, but only dormant. Too often in the desert, water concerns orbit around the idea that we're using up all our resources and that the dryness is a sign of the dismal future. Though transient communities have made the river channel home, and others use it as a dumping ground, sooner or later the water will rise again. Everything found in the channel is colored with this knowledge.

In exploring the Salt River bed and banks, the garbage becomes remnants and artifacts. [aslideshow] Eroded Riverbank. Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area east of Granite Reef Dam.

High Water Mark. Below the 101/202 interchange where Mesa, Tempe, and the Reservation meet.

Transient's Tent. Below the 101/202 interchange where Mesa, Tempe, and the Reservation meet.

Faded Memories. Below the 101/202 interchange where Mesa, Tempe, and the Reservation meet.

Post Flood Detritus. Salt River at Central Avenue in Phoenix.

Plastic Bag High Water Mark. Salt River at Central Avenue in Phoenix.

Dry River Bed. Salt River at 7th Ave in Phoenix.

Thirst Buster. Salt River at 7th Ave in Phoenix.

El Mirage Flooding. Salt River at El Mirage Rd west of Phoenix.

Gillespie Dam Blown Out By Flooding. Gillespie Dam."

Fish Stranded After Flooding. Gillespie Dam.

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I am an archaeologist attempting to piece together the meaning of each pile of trash dumped and beer can left behind. Who, why, when? People have left marks of recreation, as well. Fire pits, beer cans, and fishing wire. Good times gone, more than just footprints left behind.

I become sensitive to the difference between different kinds of dry. The dry of the surrounding desert contrasted against the dry of the riverbed, which is filled with the memory of water.

This project is part of the Phoenix Transect Project at Arizona State University.

The project can be seen in its entirety at http://www.adamthorman.com/saltriverproject.html as well.

Contributor's Biography:

Adam Thorman was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his BFA in Photography from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 2003 and his MFA from Arizona State University in 2009. His work has been exhibited nationally. He currently splits his time between Berkeley, CA and Prescott, AZ where he teaches photography at Prescott College.

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