TSC: For you, was it the bike or photography that came first? Did one influence the start of the other?
SJH: Photography was a part of my life well before bikes, I started shooting skateboarding in high school which was the genesis of my love for photography. I didn’t start really riding bikes until college when I was already knee deep in my photography program. So as far as influencing my interest in photography, that award goes to skateboarding. I will say that bikes heavily influenced the current trajectory of my photography work. I think my photography practice matured on my first bike tour from Seattle to Santa Cruz in 2009. I took my hasselblad instead of a tent and the images I came back with formed the foundation of my “To Everyone Who Ever Hoped It Might Be True” series which was also my senior thesis project. I owe where I am as a photographer to bikes and the people that bikes have allowed me to connect with.
TSC: Your recent photo project “Wilderness Parking” is a visually enticing work documenting the scenic vignettes often decaled on the sides of motorhomes and campers in national parks. But it’s also a deeper study of the torn history of these public spaces, their inception, and most alarmingly their abuse by visitors. You’ve spent a large amount of time in these areas—on bikes or otherwise. How did the project start, and what has shifted your perspective of public lands and our access to it as a result of the work?
SJH: Well this one needs a little back story; the project started when I noticed three of those rental RVs parked in a line at a trailhead in Banff, Canada. I already had a stewing dislike for the rental RVs after being run off the road by more than a few, but something about the scene was compelling and I couldn’t stop trying to create vignettes within the scene. My main source of employment is working as a tour guide for van supported cycling vacations, which allows me plenty of time in touristy parking lots waiting to support the riders. Once I got a few images under my belt I started looking for more and more vans and buses with the vinyl wrapped landscapes images. This project probably jumped the shark when I actually went to a Cruise America rental location and just milled about the parking lot trying to collect as many different RV images as possible.
All of this led me to start doing some research on the origins of the idea of “wilderness”, which led to reading about native dispossession, which led to me realizing everything is terrible, especially our “public lands”. As I moved forward with the project I started to create images examining the borders between federal wilderness areas and bombing ranges in the southwest. This was all a means to make images to demonstrate that borders are dumb and prove wildnerness is a made up concept if it can share a boundary with a bombing range. The funny thing I found while researching bombing ranges was that they are some of the best natural preserves in the US due to actually limited visitation.
The project has made me examine my own privilege and ableist views on enjoying and accessing public lands. I think the images start an important conversion for anyone who is engaged with the outdoors and I’m really proud of whats come of it so far and where it might go. It also makes me really fun to be around when someone says something glorifying John Muir or Edward Abbey.
TSC: Can you think of a time when everything was..?