While traveling along Highway 50, the Loneliest Highway in America, some newlyweds stopped under the shade of the cottonwood tree. They got into a big argument and the young bride threatened to take off walking. Her husband grabbed her shoes that she had removed while they were in the car, and he threw them high into the tree so she couldn’t walk away on the gravel and dirt. Apparently, they are now married. Others have followed suit, for a variety of reasons. This is the origin story for Shoe Tree, Highway 50, Nevada, an introduction to the unusual places of Nevada.
America holds dearly to old ideas of the West as a wild place of majestic space, mountains and deserts, hard-working cowboys and stoic Indians. We think of a ranching, mining, and logging economy enlivened here and there with urban centers and outback resorts, but still a bastion of small-town life, individualism, and opportunity. And so it is sometimes—but rarely.
The West’s most telling reality nowadays is its new social layers: a thriving recreation and tourism industry, a service-based region attracting migrants faster than anywhere else in America, and a postindustrial, high-tech economy creating new jobs in record numbers. The West is America’s most rapidly growing area, replete with pop-up shopping malls, office parks, and cookie-cutter subdivisions. Rodeos, dude ranches, national parks, and wilderness areas now abide with sprawling cities, ritzy ski resorts, and meccas of world-class climbing, mountain biking, and fly-fishing.
These photographs are a sampling of views of Nevada’s enigmatic basin and range landscapes, urban forests, military bombing ranges, Paiute firework stores; each of which is a portal into a story yet spoken but frequently observed.
Peter Goin is a Regents & Foundation Professor of Art in photography and videography at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is the author of numerous books, and his photographs have been exhibited in more than fifty museums nationally and internationally. To learn more about Goin, please visit his website: www.petergoin.com.