In A Doubtful River, photographers Robert Dawson and Peter Goin and essayist Mary Webb explore the ways the river's multifarious users relate to the region's aridity and the precious waters of the Truckee. Dawson's and Goin's eloquent photographs record unforgettable images of the Truckee River's course from the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada to desert-bound Pyramid Lake and the ways the river and the land beside it have been used and reshaped by human needs, greed, and carelessness. Webb's essays offer a moving verbal counterpoint, focusing on the people who depend on and adjudicate the river's water. The sum of the elements of this book is a memorable picture of the complexity of water allocation in a region where conflicting traditions about the uses of the land and its resources, a rapidly growing population, and limited supply make water the most precious commodity of all.
About The Authors
Robert Dawson is an award-winning photographer whose works are in several permanent collections, including the New York Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of American Art. He is the author of three books and a contributor to more than twenty-five more. Mr. Dawson is an instructor of photography at San Jose State University and Stanford University. Peter Goin is professor of art in photography and video at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has written several books including Humanature and Stopping Time: A Rephotographic Survey of Lake Tahoe. His photographs have been exhibited in more than fifty museums nationally and internationally, and he is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Mary Webb teaches writing at the University of Nevada, Reno. She received her M.A. in English (summa cum laude) from Northern Arizona University.
No array of statistics can convey with such dazzling force the living conundrums of a great Western river and its people as do these startling photographic images and personal histories. A Doubtful River is an interdisciplinary model of natural history that every state and region of the West—indeed, the country—needs to emulate if we are to grasp what the vital convergence of our rivers, our land, and ourselves reveals: water is life. (Frank Bergon, author of Wild Game)
A Doubtful River shows just how unnatural nature can be. The Truckee River is just one of the world's thoroughly reworked rivers, but by investigating their local waterway so thoroughly in word and image, these writers and photographers teach us that there's hardly a place left where we people haven't gotten our feet wet and taken charge of the flow. Read it before you take your next drink or swim! ( David Rothenberg, editor of The New Earth Reader: The Best of Terra Nova)
A Doubtful River issues a poignant call to take a hard look at our place in the West. Its engaging stories and direct photographs provide an important lesson and warning for the contemporary West about the reality of scarce water. (John Rohrbach, Associate Curator of Photographs, Amon Carter Museum)
A Doubtful River tells us of water rights and of water wrongs, a river system that has been used and abused. It shows us despoliation and hubris, folly and vandalism, the product of willful behavior, greed and ignorance, but also inspiring tales. This landscape has to struggle for balance in the contradiction and contrast between natives and newcomers, purity and pollution, sage and casinos, desert and dams, public desire and private property rights. A Doubtful River demonstrates the paradox that this 'harsh' landscape requires gentle treatment. (Kenneth Helphand, University of Oregon, Department of Landscape Architecture)
In the tradition of the legendary geographical surveys of the 1870s, Robert Dawson, Peter Goin, and Mary Webb have created a documentary project, which once again calls our attention to the fragile relationship between man and nature, and the need for proper intervention. The Truckee River, not a household name, is revealed in all its natural glory and potential endangerment as a representative example of what is and could be happening all over this nation. The photographs and text in this volume become a rally point for all of us that are concerned about how we can save and cherish the wonderment of this land for this new century. (Miles Barth, Author and Independent Curator)
Focusing on the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake area of western Nevada, the authors lay bare the complex ecological problems that lie just beneath the manicured lawns of the new west's instant suburbs. The text weaves together first-person narrative with an ecological overview and social history of the region, while the stunning photographs convey both the natural beauty and the man-made insults that abound in this region. A Doubtful River is an important, cautionary book about our attitudes toward nature and the impending disaster if we don't learn to inhabit the desert on its own terms. This is one of those rare books where neither the text nor the imagery is subservient to the other. (Terence Pitts, Director of the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona)
The distinction between acre feet and streamhood, like the difference between board feet and foresthood, defines different realities. The reality we choose mirrors our morality and therefore our future on this continent. This volume should help us be objective in the right way. (Wes Jackson, The Land Institute)
Rita Schmidt Sudman
Every person who moves to Reno, or really the West, will be interested in the history of this river. It's the story of a river in the desert— a lifeline fought over by city people, power users, farmers, environmentalists, and Native Americans—in short, all of us who live in an arid land. (Rita Schmidt Sudman, Executive Director, Water Education Foundation)