Then and Now

Historical photographs are important tools in evaluating changes over time.  Especially important are landscape photographs which can document mans impact on the environment.  At the turn of the century landscape photography was particularly popular and many photographs survive today in archives, even those from remote areas such as the bootheel.

The Malpais Borderland is a roughly triangular area extending south of New Mexico Highway 9 to the border, with it's apex around Animas New Mexico and encompassing much of the bootheel.  While the Malpai Borderlands Group  is a " landowner-driven nonprofit organization attempting to implement ecosystem management on nearly one million acres of virtually unfragmented open-space landscape in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico."   As part of the documentation process R. M. Turner of the USGS rephotographed a number of sites where early photographs had been recorded to document changes in the vegetation and landscape as a result of man's influence.  Coincidentally, as part of the Bootheel Photodocumentation Project, one of these views was partially replicated.  The major difference between the earlier photographs and the most recent photograph were the 1913 and 1999 photographs were ground based while the most recent photograph was aerial and the subject chosen based on artistic merits not scientific documentation.

Below are three photographs of the Big Hatchet Mountains taken over a span of almost 100 years.  The first 2 photographs  are from the same spot atop one of the small hills between the Big and Little Hatchet Mountains.  While the third photo was taken from a weight shift control light sport aircraft just above the southern most small hill.  These photographs illustrate that:
1.  Low level aerial photography is a useful tool in photodocumenting the landscape on a similar scale as ground based photography with the advantage of easier access and unique perspectives if required.
2. The views around the bootheel are timeless.

September 29, 1913. Photograph by A. T. Schwennesen
May 12, 1999. Photograph by R. M. Turner

August 24, 2009. A low level aerial photograph from a similar location (slightly south).


  1. These pictures are truly amazing, no place else I know would have so little change. Your low level aerial is beautiful!

  2. Thank you. I was surprised to find links to these old images and even more surprised to find I had replicated some of the views.