I had never been particularly interested in Western movies. I had seen a few and I had enjoyed them, however, I had never put much thought into when or where those movies had been filmed. Since visiting Monument Valley, this has changed.
The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is considered the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation but also the iconic symbol of the American West. Thanks to the efforts of the Harry and Leone “Mike” Goulding and their ability to persuade movie director John Ford that the location of their trading post, Monument Valley, would be an ideal film setting, the valley has been the film set for a number of Western movies. Just to name a few: Ford’s”Stagecoach” (1939), “My Darling Clementine” (1946), “Easy Rider” (1969) and, one of the most recent movies filmed there, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (2014).
Sandstone formations with catchy and, once you’ve seen them, self-explanatory names such as East Mitten, Elephant Butte and Thumb, create an iconic landscape which can be easily recognised and immediately lets you expect a cowboy in full gear to gallop around the next corner.
As the full title of the park suggests, the Monument Valley lies within the Navajo Indian Reservation on the Utah/Arizona border. Numerous tours and a large visitor centre offer plenty of knowledge on the rich culture of the Navajo – the largest federally recognized Native American Indian tribe in the US! When visiting the valley, I do recommend joining one of the tours led by a local guide and learning how the Navajos live in and care for the park.
We joined a jeep tour along the dirt roads of the valley during which I took the majority of my photos. However, I believe my favourite view (and photo) was the one from the Photographer’s Point. Knowing that I was standing in the same spot as Ansel Adams once had stood, meant a lot to me and reminded me of how much more I still have to learn regarding photography and, well, most other things – such as the history of Western movies.
If you’d like to read more about the Monument Valley, have a look here: