Images of Arizona




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Production: The Unexpected

The David Muench Workshop

In November, we shot with David Muench in Monument Valley and some of David's other favorite places in Northern Arizona.

The Photography Editor of Arizona Highways magazine, Richard Maack, has said that "Often, when we conjure visions of the American West, we see that landscape through the eyes of David Muench, so powerful are his images. His influence on the legion of color landscape photographers that followed him reinforces that vision through their devotion to his subjects and photographic style. Muench's dramatic flair, trademark near-far style, and love of light and landscape created unforgettable scenes that have become an important part of America's visual identity."

David grew up with photography. His father, Josef Muench, was a pioneering color landscape photographer and an important contributor to Arizona Highways. Josef's work dominated the pages of the magazine throughout the 1940's and 50's and, according to Maack, was "hugely influential in developing the style of photography that established Arizona Highways' international reputation."

So going to Monument Valley with David was a treat. David recalls that Monument Valley was his dad's "real center." Apparently, Josef spent lots of time with Harry Goulding there — the man responsible for putting Monument Valley on the map and in the movies. David would tag along.

One of the great surprises on this shoot occurred at one of David's favorite places, Hunt's Mesa. It started with a four-wheel drive adventure that would rouse even the most adventurous. Beth said she had done lots of four-wheeling in her time but nothing this wild. Here's a short excerpt about the expedition from Beth's Behind the Scenes feature:

"The day was clear but windy and brutally cold. We traveled together this time in four Suburbans, each with a guide. Frequently, we raced ahead so we could set up a shot of the photogs making the long, and often harrowing, journey up to the Mesa in four-wheel drive. During one particularly hairy section of (non) road, our fearless producer actually got out and walked. At one point I turned around and saw Ben [Avechuco, our audio guy and online editor] in the backseat with both arms on the ceiling, bracing himself! Later, when we were filming the photogs climbing this section, we realized that all four wheels were airborne at one point!"

It was truly spectacular at the top — all of Monument Valley was at our feet. The photography students were going crazy taking pictures. The TV crew found a sheltered spot below the lip of the mesa to shoot an interview with David. Michael said it was the best outdoor audio stage he'd ever seen. Towards the end of the interview, Muench had a small epiphany. He realized that 49 years ago, when he was at this same spot with his father, he made the decision to become a photographer. At this exact spot. These are the wonderful production surprises you can never plan for.

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