politically don’t share a similar ideology,” he says. “But we all like rivers
for the most part.” By speaking with a range of people, from landscape
architects to scientists, environmentalists to salmon researchers, DeHart
began to piece together an understanding of the Columbia Basin, and
how the river systems connect and feed the identity of the entire region.
DeHart began the project in 2012, and the ongoing work currently
includes four parts, which he refers to as “short stories.” With an
exhibition coming up this fall at the University of the Pacific in
Stockton, California, DeHart is currently working on photographs
and video pieces that explore the historic significance and current
challenges faced by salmon populations, which travel hundreds of
miles inland from the Pacific Ocean through the river systems to
spawn. In his research, DeHart says, he was “struck that there is this
unifying creature that links the northwest identity,” he says. “They are
amazing creatures. There is a certain poetry and grace in them.”
Part one of the project provides an exploratory overview of the
region. We see tree farms, shooting ranges, boathouses on a glassy
lake, bridges that span the rivers. In one image, a signpost in the shape
of a salmon stands in front of a section of river, bearing some sort of
warning for fishermen or swimmers. In another we see the front gate
of an Army chemical depot.
DeHart’s portraits show people he came across—mostly by
happenstance—during his explorations on foot, by bicycle and by
car, often with his children in tow as they explored the area. In one
photograph a bleach-blonde young woman poses in front of long-
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