William Rugen spent 20 years as a fisheries oceanographer before turning to photography full-time in 2008. That year he went on the road with three cameras, one month of free time, and absolutely no concrete plans. This was the beginning his first fine art project, Western Dioramas, a sort of continuing survey of the American West. In between paying work, he continues to work on this and other open-ended projects, mostly driven by subject matter and the use of color and strong graphic elements.
This project is a snapshot of the American west after nearly 200 years of Manifest Destiny and how that has informed our view of “The West” as being transformable, disposable, and unforgettable. I am looking at the how Americans have continually looked west for new start, succeeded and failed time and again, and how these failures are often left on display like a sun-bleached skeleton. I am interested in the way the past has been run over by the present and the line where the open meets the inhabited and how, often, both are worse for the meeting.
In these images, every object has its own place almost as if it has been purposefully put there, like a diorama at a museum. Each picture a momentary still life showing the continuing history of the West.
To see more of William’s work, please visit his website.