Deborah Ford


Deborah (Springstead) Ford is currently professor of Photographic Studies at Prescott College. She studied photography at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Arizona State University and Goddard College. Ms. Ford has a BFA in Photography, a Master’s in Photographic Studies/Art Education and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts. She has been teaching photography full time since 1982, the last 17 years at Prescott College in northern Arizona. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including four Arizona Commission on the Arts Grants, the most recent an Artist Project Grant (2009) and participated in many Artist-in-Residence programs around the country including the Ucross Foundation, Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, Joshua Tree National Park, Isle Royale National Park, and Aspen Guard Station to name a select few. Her work is found in numerous public and private collections including the Center for Creative Photography, California Museum of Photography (Riverside), Northlight Gallery, Sitka Center for Art and Ecology among others. Her work has been exhibited nationally and recent publications include a profile in Black and White Magazine, Issue #82. (April 2011). She divides her time between Prescott, Arizona and Absarokee, Montana.

Artist statement for Cartography and the Cultural Terrain:

In this body of work, I use photographic (film-based) images of landscapes and geological forms as an avenue to explore the historic impetus for westward expansion, colonialism, and the quest for natural resources. Through the manipulation and juxtaposition of the visual data from maps, artifacts and text, I attempt to create provocative visual narratives, deriving further ambiguity from the photographic techniques employed.

Historic maps give us pictures of history as Eurocentric, though oftentimes the cartographer’s hand reflected the influences of indigenous peoples, local terrain, or personal and political quirky values of the time. I am hoping to reflect upon and challenge some of the fundamental concepts associated with geography as a cultural construct.

I use these images in general to explore ideas surrounding historic and contemporary westward expansion, but in particular as an examination of environmental factors related to mining and land use practices. I am increasingly interested in the motivations, sacrifices and belief systems behind colonialism in general that laid the groundwork of the American Dream and now plague us in our consumer based society.

While the work began as images of landscape as symbolic of westward expansion, I began to pay more attention to how this expansion affected land use practices, species habitat, ecological sustainability and other conflicting cultural and environmentalvalues inherent in notions of the American West. These issues gave rise to the impetus to explore the balance within the relationship between the benevolent and malignant aspects of our intersection in nature and culture, while ultimately exploring the crossroads of science and art.