by Len Marks
I went to Tonopah, Nevada. Itís a turn-of-the-century mining boomtown and represents the final chapter of the settlement of the American West. Perhaps out of greed, or perhaps out of need, Tonopah was created by the lust to live a dream. It was born in 1900 when a man by the name of Jim Butler discovered silver. His discovery produced Nevadaís last great mining rush.
But thatís all gone now. The grayish brown wooden structures, the old rusted ironwork, the now unproductive and scattered hand tools and machinery are all artifacts of those mortal men scraping the earth for a chance at a better life. In the end, the earth reclaimed not only their flesh and blood but their iron and stone as well. What remains are the bones of dreams. If you like ghost towns, youíll love Tonopah.
I met a fellow by the name of Jim Diaz in the Tonopah office of the Bureau of Land Management who was gracious enough to actually lead me to where I could find wild horses. I followed him with my truck way out into the Great Basin Desert where he left me alone with a sandwich, a map, water and a tank of gas. As remote as this part of the country is, itís equally beautiful. The great flat distances and the sweeping grace of the desert landscape, so delicately laced with shadscale, sagebrush and greasewood, surround snow-capped mountain ranges like the ocean surrounds an island chain. I am left with most of what the desert is ó the earthen tone, the wide-open flatness of the Great Basin landscape, the hot Nevada sun and the quietude of the desert. The silence shakes my bones.
I photographed a small band of horses move slowly past a pile of bones. It was as if they knew a life had once existed and out of respect, they only walked, heads bowed gracefully, paying homage to the life that once was. Bones speak of the past, present and the future of all creatures great and small. They speak of our mortality, the harshness of the desert biome and of the commonality of all flesh and blood and of the strength and power of an eternal mother earth. They shine bright gray and white, the color of reality, and remind us that no matter what the measure of our lives, the end is always the same.
But the horseís end need not be expedited by manís existence.
I hope my images bring joy to your heart and a certain peace of mind in knowing that the wild horse, though threatened, is still alive in many parts of the West. But time may be growing short. Hopefully my images will help to create enough public awareness of the plight of the wild horse and enable the horse to remainÖ forever wild.
Photographer Len Marks resides in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. These images were part of a one-man show titled Mustangs. View more of his fine art photography at LenMarksEquine.com