William Mark Sommer (b. 1990) is a film photographer from Sacramento, California. Mark has exhibited over the United States and Internationally and has received his BFA in Photography from Arizona State University. Traveling the many back roads through the Western United States for the past 10 years has let him explore the idealization of the American Dream. His travels brought him a closer understanding of this nostalgic America, by understanding the progressive nature of forgetting the past. Visualizing this progression through destruction has empowered Mark to bring attention and preserve these forgotten places within his photographs. Mark has self-published 10 books exploring his series confront the American ideal.
“The natural elements of prosperity seem concentrated in profusion seldom found. In our primitive simplicity we reasoned that if we could take ores from the mountains and reduce them to gold and silver with which to pay for labor and purchase the productions of the valleys, a community could be established in the country independent of foreign resources. The result will show the success or failure of this Utopian scheme.”
– Charles D. Poston, Building a State in Apache Land 1878
Manifest destiny, the paradoxical idea of the divine conquest, has taken over the landscape and has continued as an American mandate throughout history. The ideas and virtues of early settlers were brought to the West in hopes of developing a utopian grandeur for themselves, but as they expanded they left dust in their wake. The spirit of manifest destiny flourished within the mining industry as the settlers moved cross country, building and cutting minerals from the mountains. But what happens when the gold goes and its cost outweighs its profit? ‘Dusted’ questions this history of the manifest destiny by revisiting the impact of mining and revealing what is left behind after we’ve moved on to the next place.
To see more of Mark’s work, check out his website.