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Precise yet Arbitrary Places
May 10, 2013 12:22 PM   Subscribe

In 1998, Bruce Myren bought a portable GPS unit, and began a project he had been dreaming of since 1991: photographing each of the whole longitudinal degree intersections along the 40th parallel using an 8"x10" camera. In June, 2012, he ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise money to finish the project. He completed it last December, 21 years after conception: The Fortieth Parallel

Bruce Myren's statement about the project.

PetaPixel: Photographer Capturing the 40th Parallel all across the United States.

Slate: There's no Escaping the 40th Parallel

Related post on the blue...

More distantly related post on the blue, partly about Clarence King (who is mentioned in Myren's statement, above).
posted by 1367 (44 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's crazy how much open space there still is in the United States. Only three of the pictures show any buildings and most don't show anything manmade at all. It's a big country.
posted by desjardins at 12:30 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really lovely work. Thank you.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:31 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's crazy how much open space there still is in the United States. Only three of the pictures show any buildings and most don't show anything manmade at all. It's a big country.

No kidding. My parents were big Let's See America! people, so all of our family trips were road trips (loooooong road trips) through such exciting places as "the dirt and shrubbery of the American Southwest" and "the dirt and marshes of the American Southeast" and "corn".

The only time I ever saw cities are when I went places on my own, and that was only because I had to fly there, and airports tend to require at least a reasonable amount of population.
posted by phunniemee at 12:35 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Am I ungrateful for wishing he'd actually done this for each of the intersections rather than just for the ones falling within the boundaries of the US?
Still, great concept, great pics.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:36 PM on May 10, 2013


That's what I was just thinking, Hairy. I'd support the Kickstarter to finish the project in Europe and Asia.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:37 PM on May 10, 2013


Fantastic. Really looking forward to exploring this.

(insert obvious joke to the effect that it's been done to death at the -90th parallel)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:38 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, really should specify "40th parallel in the US." But pretty neat. Another reminder of where most people live in the US.
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:38 PM on May 10, 2013


Oh, come on, I already knew that 40 N 75 W was on a golf course.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:40 PM on May 10, 2013


Am I ungrateful for wishing he'd actually done this for each of the intersections rather than just for the ones falling within the boundaries of the US?

Here you are
posted by theodolite at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Am I ungrateful for wishing he'd actually done this for each of the intersections rather than just for the ones falling within the boundaries of the US?

Considering that he'd have to hit at least two in North Korea, four within the inhospitable Tarim Basin in Western China, and eight in Turkmenistan, the challenges would be pretty great. He should at least go to Menorca for vacation and fird 40/4!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:51 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


After just poking a bit at the world map I'm guessing that the latitude that crosses the most distance over land (as opposed to the largest number of longitude points that are on land, which would certainly be in Antarctica) is probably right around the 30th parallel. It just skims the bottom of the wide bit of North America and the top of Africa as well as an awful lot of Asia. I'm sure someone's already answered this question.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:52 PM on May 10, 2013


Yeah, I was just about to link to confluence.org, one of the first "web sites" I can recall from huge times ago. That is vintage web design, as you can see. Anyway, I always enjoyed that the thumbnails from Saskatchewan at Confluence were just a whole bunch of postage-stamp-sized pictures of golden fields with blue sky above them.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:55 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


After just poking a bit at the world map I'm guessing that the latitude that crosses the most distance over land (as opposed to the largest number of longitude points that are on land, which would certainly be in Antarctica) is probably right around the 30th parallel. It just skims the bottom of the wide bit of North America and the top of Africa as well as an awful lot of Asia.

I don't know why it boggles me so much that any part of America is south of any part of Africa, but it does. And I've lived in parts of Africa that are north of parts of America that I've also lived in.
posted by Etrigan at 1:05 PM on May 10, 2013


Wow, amazed that confluence.org is not only still up but has photos posted only a few days ago.
posted by gubo at 1:05 PM on May 10, 2013


Damn you for posting confluence.org, there goes the rest of my afternoon.
posted by desjardins at 1:06 PM on May 10, 2013


I love this project. There is nothing like large format. Oh, to see these as huge cibachromes on a gallery wall.

Also, it's interesting he used Ektachrome 100 plus. Another discontinued Kodak film, I guess it just couldn't hold enough of the shrinking colour reversal market. At least we still have Velvia.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2013


Yeah, really should specify "40th parallel in the US." But pretty neat. Another reminder of where most people live in the US.

The choice of the 40th parallel also brings in some things that (I guess obviously) wouldn't happen at other latitudes, especially in the West. The first couple shots in California happen in the Lost Coast, which is pretty famously inaccessible. He's lucky his spots ended up not too far from one of the few roads that goes into the area and reaches the coast, but he still had to shlep that camera a couple miles down the shore next to a mountain range. Also, in Nevada, his route is consistently 20 miles or so north of Highway 50, also known as "The Loneliest Road in America" for most of its stretch through the Great Basin.
posted by LionIndex at 1:10 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was quite boggled that the furthest west and east intersections were on a beach until I looked that he started and finished on the coast, and the ones inbetween are on the whole numbers. Just in case that's blowing the mind of anyone else.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:13 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few of those photos were taken pre-2000. Did he account for Selective Availability?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:13 PM on May 10, 2013


I don't know why it boggles me so much that any part of America is south of any part of Africa, but it does. And I've lived in parts of Africa that are north of parts of America that I've also lived in.

I'm always boggled by the fact that Great Britain is at roughly the latitude of the coast of Labrador.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:16 PM on May 10, 2013


It's amazing what lens vignetting and a triptych presentation can do for even the shittiest landscapes.

n.b. This is not an indictment.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:18 PM on May 10, 2013


It blew my mind the other day to learn that Easter Island, one of the farthest places east that Polynesian settlers reached, is at the same longitude as Utah.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:21 PM on May 10, 2013


That would explain why Moai is so close to Moab in the dictionary
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know why it boggles me so much that any part of America is south of any part of Africa, but it does. And I've lived in parts of Africa that are north of parts of America that I've also lived in.

I'm always amazed at how North America relates to Western Europe in terms of latitude. For instance, Minneapolis is south of Paris, and New York City is south of Rome. Never mind somewhere like San Diego being south of Casablanca.
posted by stopgap at 1:25 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It blew my mind the other day to learn that Easter Island, one of the farthest places east that Polynesian settlers reached, is at the same longitude as Utah.

Yeah, South America is just as much East America. Fun fact: if you travel due south from Key West, Florida, your path will never cross South America.
posted by stopgap at 1:27 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's amazing what lens vignetting and a triptych presentation can do for even the shittiest landscapes.

If you can tell in advance (and you can) that you're going to be photographing farmland, pick your time of year.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:36 PM on May 10, 2013


> pick your time of year

Oh, sure. And time of day and weather, etc. He's also got a great eye for framing. It's good work, no doubt; making the best of a mediocre subject is what being professional is all about.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:41 PM on May 10, 2013


Never mind somewhere like San Diego being south of Casablanca.

If you use a line of longitude for your division, San Diego is also in Eastern California, well to the east of a large portion of Nevada.
posted by LionIndex at 1:58 PM on May 10, 2013


Very cool, both the project and your post.
posted by caddis at 2:05 PM on May 10, 2013


Love the project and I admire the dude for finishing it. Some of those spots in Nevada must have taken hours of off-roading to reach.
posted by mathowie at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2013


Am I ungrateful for wishing he'd actually done this for each of the intersections rather than just for the ones falling within the boundaries of the US?

Here you are



Here's the 40N 8W page. near Coimbra, Portugal. At the top left of the page, click the E link on the globe to move east one degree at a time.

Most of the Europe intersections are rural, too.
posted by jjj606 at 5:54 PM on May 10, 2013


phunniemee: "My parents were big Let's See America! people, so all of our family trips were road trips (loooooong road trips) through such exciting places as "the dirt and shrubbery of the American Southwest" and "the dirt and marshes of the American Southeast" and "corn". "

I have vivid memories of my father shouting at us from the front seat as we drove through central Illinois on the freeway, "PUT DOWN THOSE BOOKS! WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH THE BEST FARMLAND IN THE WORLD! LOOK OUT THE WINDOW!"

It is a true fact, but not so interesting to look at after 10 miles or so.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:54 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I was checking my Google analytics stats and saw that I had over 1000 visits from MetaFilter!!! Thanks.

Enjoying all the comments and critique, but would like to state that my last name is spelled, Myren, not Myron.
posted by bmyren at 8:24 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is one of the projects that makes me say I wish I'd thought of that.

Also, after a few discussions here previously about how overly flowery and obtuse a lot of artist's statements can be, I think we can agree that the statement linked above is pretty substantial and straight to the point.
posted by malapropist at 8:28 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.
posted by bmyren at 8:34 PM on May 10, 2013


Well, okay, I'm just curious, how much fun was it to make the actual treks out to capture these locations? I would think that traveling around tracing the 40th parallel would be a great excursion, as it would take you to a lot of out of the way locations.

Nice presentation, btw. I really like the triptych format. They must look amazing in person.
posted by malapropist at 8:44 PM on May 10, 2013


It was amazing, driving off road in a rental car, hiking miles up mountains to get to such a specific place was kind of crazy, but fun. I drove by many places that I want to go back to make pictures of. And to see the country in this way, was wonderful. That was the hardest part, not stopping to make other photographs.
The triptych just made sense as it mimics my range of vision, but the frame is there to remind the viewer about the photograph as object.

If I do say so myself the prints are very good, much better than the the website version.
posted by bmyren at 9:04 PM on May 10, 2013


bmyren wrote: Enjoying all the comments and critique, but would like to state that my last name is spelled, Myren, not Myron.

I am so embarrassed... my first fpp and I misspelled the name of the person who is the focus of the post. Not just once... but twice.

Would it be possible for a mod to correct the errors, if only to allow for people to search for the correct spelling in the future?

In the meantime, I will find a chalkboard and start writing lines, ala Bart Simpson....
posted by 1367 at 9:19 PM on May 10, 2013


ala Bart Simpson...
posted by 1367 at 9:26 PM on May 10, 2013


Wonderful to see confluence.org again. I'd almost forgotten about it, but there's my boots again, almost 12 years ago.

I do sometimes wonder at all the digital mouse-droppings we leave behind :-).
posted by nickzoic at 4:49 AM on May 11, 2013


1367 wrote: I am so embarrassed...

No worries my name is often misspelled.
posted by bmyren at 6:05 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you have plans to do more longterm projects?
posted by desjardins at 8:13 PM on May 11, 2013


Do you have plans to do more longterm projects?

I am working on a couple of ideas that could become long term projects. Currently I do not have anything as precise and contained as The Fortieth Parallel. My Work in Amherst at Fort Juniper is going into its 4th year, so maybe I already am. But it is very different, more about relational location as opposed to absolute location.
posted by bmyren at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2013


Just stumbled in from the MeFi Podcast Meta .. and wow.

Awesome, from concept to execution, from left to right and everywhere in between.

You must have a hell of a collection of stories to go with these photos. The coffee table book practically writes itself.
posted by notyou at 6:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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