Photographer Josh Schachter first photographed the Santa Rita Mountains and Sonoita 15 years ago, documenting the gorgeous views so prized by locals and tourists.
Two years ago, knowing that that landscape was now "in jeopardy" from the proposed Rosemont copper mine, Schachter set about trying to save it through art. He and fellow photog Brian Forbes Powell "went out to the land where the mine would be, and quickly realized it was too big for the two of us."
Partnering with the Sonoran Institute and the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas coalition, they built a website and solicited photos that would document the region's natural beauties, showing what we have now, and what we lose if the mine gets blasted into the pristine landscape.
"We got hundreds and hundreds of photos," Schachter said.
The pair selected 49 photos by 30 photographers for the exhibition Lens on the Land: Rosemont, What's at Stake. Divided into groups by theme, the photos celebrate "viewsheds" of the land, biodiversity, cultural heritage, local industry, tourism and so on.
The exhibition's prodigious text was based on studies by Pima County, which opposes the mine, and a U.S. Forest Service environmental impact statement. (Powell is a biologist for the county, but he worked on Lens on the Land as a private citizen, Schachter said.)
The text is full of horrifying numbers: The mine would have an impact on more than 4,700 acres of public and private land, "permanently disturb(ing) 3,700 acres of public land." If the pit mine and its tailings and waste piles were plopped on top of downtown Tucson, they would extend roughly from Glenn Street on the north to 22nd street on the south, and from Tucson Boulevard on the east to Interstate 10 on the west. And if downtown were dropped into the mine's vast open pit, it would be like a tiny toy city at the bottom of a giant's very deep well. One South Church (formerly the UniSource Energy Tower) at 330 feet the city's tallest skyscraper, would be dwarfed by that well's tallest side, at 2,900 feet.
Much has been written about the mine, but the exhibition allows pictures to tell the story, and to show the heartbreaking beauty of an endangered place.