Ranney, born in 1942, was first recognized for his photographic studies Stonework of the Maya (1974) and Monuments of the Incas (1982). After creating this substantial body of work devoted to pre-Columbian art and architecture — photographs that convey the tightly bound alliance between the monuments and their geographic surroundings — his explorations of the intersection of history, culture, and the landscape extended into several further arenas.
In 1979, Ranney began an ongoing collaboration with the artist Charles Ross, documenting the evolution of Rosss earthwork sculpture Star Axis, a monumental naked-eye celestial observatory being carved into a cliff face in eastern New Mexico. His images narrate the sites progress as well as describe the space between the earthbound and the celestial that Star Axis bridges. In 1980 and 1981, Ranney followed the undulations of Hadrians Wall across the British landscape; and in 1992, Ranney undertook a commission to photograph the Illinois and Michigan Canal Corridor. Constructed in the mid-nineteenth century, the waterway links Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River, traversing the part of Illinois where the artist was raised.
Ranney also has photographed extensively in the American Southwest, particularly in New Mexico, where he has made his home since 1970. These images follow the history of settlement in the region, from the remains of Native American sites that quietly populate the desert, to villages of Hispanic ancestry, to the water and power grid that now shapes much of the contemporary West.
Ranneys most recent project is a continuing series of emotionally charged landscapes of the Andean coastal desert of Peru, remarkable for the carefully rendered tension between the subtle shadows of ruins emerging from the desert and the vast expanses of these open valleys that begin against the Andes Mountains and terminate abruptly at the Pacific Ocean.
Believing in a photograph’s ability to inform beyond the direct facts of a place, Ranney has sought to create images that give a feeling for the spirit of the culture.” He will give a lecture on Space and Place Wednesday, April 9, at 4:30 p.m. in McCormick 106.