Like Hunting, but not Killing Anything: A Conversation with Photographer Erica Lane Harvey

Last Updated by Michael Zimny on
Credit: Erica Lane Photography

Work from photographer Erica Lane Harvey's series on the Badlands is on display at the Eastbank Art Gallery in Sioux Falls through October 1st. 

The show, also featuring painters Jim Heroux, Stacey Evangelista and photographer Dana Dedrick is on display through the month of September. 

SDPB caught up with Lane Harvey to talk about exploring off the Scenic Loop Road and why sunsets aren’t everything.

SDPB

You've mentioned how there are people in Rapid City who never make it to the Badlands. What draws you there that people from nearby might not know or appreciate?

ELH

The thing that draws me to the Badlands the most is its ruggedness and isolation. I feel really lucky that where we live in South Dakota we can go places and feel like we’re in the wilderness. 

The color palate to me is fantastic. Every season you go out it’s different. And the struggle for life is always fascinating to watch. You think it looks harsh, but if you look closely, you can see flowers growing, you can see animals thriving. 

In the winter, you have the white snow contrasting with the [sediment] and the red layers, and I find it just fascinating. It boggles my mind that people could live in Rapid City and not take even a day to drive over and experience it.   

SDPB

You’ve also spoken about how, though park visitation is up, people often only spend a few hours touring the park. What are they missing?

ELH

A lot of times people’s vacation is limited, so when they go to the parks, they want to stay in their car and view it that way, jump out, take a quick selfie and get back in and go to the next highlight. 

It’s great that people at least do that. It’s better than not going. 

But when you start to get out of your car and explore off the path, even a quarter of a mile, these unique features will pull up. You want to get out of the car and on to a hiking trail to have a more intimate experience with the parks, to just kind of reconnect with our planet the way it should be without all the distractions that humans have created.  

SDPB

For us amateur photographers, what do you think is a key virtue or practice in approaching the Badlands as subject matter?

ELH

Get to know the park. 

Visit it in all its seasons. Explore all the trails. Try it in early morning and evening light. Visit places to preconceive a photo that you want. 

It takes a lot of time. I used to think that I could just go somewhere and take a picture of, say Old Faithful, and capture it. But it really takes visiting a site often to really get to know the park and understand its uniqueness, which will allow it to show you its more intimate moments. 

SDPB

Do you feel a kind of pressure/drive to find the perfect shot or do you trust that it will come to you?

ELH

Oh yeah, for me it never goes away. It’s a constant struggle and I think I thrive on it. It’s kind of like hunting, but you’re not killing anything. You know, you’re going out and you’re stalking this image and trying to find something that no-one has ever seen or documented and share it with people. 

But if you go out to re-create a beautiful scene that someone else has done in your own way, a lot of times you can close your mind to the other photo opportunities that may have presented themselves — that perhaps aren’t as epic, but by no means less beautiful. 

I’m constantly trying to tell myself, yes this is what we’re hoping to capture, but be open to just documenting what you saw. 

Some things are more impactful on a first viewing than others, but everything is beautiful in its own way. 

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