The Photographic Journal

The Work of the West

Essay 442 • May 11th 2020

"What the hell are you doing out here," a stranger exclaimed in a booming voice, face obscured by the headlights of his pickup truck.

"I'm out here from San Diego, scheduled to meet with one of the dayworkers on the 88 ranch for photographs, tomorrow," I replied.

"I don't know nobody from that ranch, why don't you go on and get the hell out of here," he responded.

"Ehh, screw it, I'll head up the road," I finished the exchange, drove a mile or two and waited. Eventually, I made the connection with my contact, the dayworker.

I had driven about six hundred miles or so through shrub and saguaro covered deserts and over dusty mesas to a small town in East Arizona named Fort Thomas (pop. 374). The intention was to explore a way of life that seems to be heading towards obsolescence.

The spirit and mentality that built the West is fading at a rapid pace. Hard, gritty work in the dirt has lost its appeal to the masses. We all want to be Zuckerbergs. These photos explore the question of whether or not fuller life, more vital life, more grounded life is found in the overlooked ways of the past.


Bob Weir is a San Diego based photographer and writer.  His current work explores Western US culture and its effect on human vitality.