A Photographic Legacy Returns to NAU – The NAU Review

David Muench has photographed some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes in a career spanning over 60 years. His images and books inspired countless landscape photographers and travelers and, according to Muench, gave meaning to his life.

“Photography is an extension of my eye,” Muench said. “I see, therefore I understand better. What I see and what I photograph is the timeless moment, this moment that exists between the past and the future; this moment which is – in photography – eternal.

Muench’s photographs will soon be positioned to provide timeless inspiration not only to his fans but also to students, researchers, teachers and others, through his donation of his photographic legacy to the Special Collections and Archives of the Cline Library at Northern Arizona University. .

“I hope my work and my outlook will inspire students to be creative in their response to the world around them,” Muench said. “Because landscape photographers instinctively connect their inner sensibilities and feelings to the rhythms and visual forms of nature, I can imagine my images serving as a kind of communication with other photographers.”

President of UNA Jose Luis Cruz Rivera said Muench’s gift will have a lasting impact in Arizona and beyond.

“We are honored that David Muench has entrusted his life’s work to NAU,” said Cruz Rivera. “It has the potential to have significant impacts on our strategic priorities, from educating students and informing researchers that will contribute to a more sustainable future to engaging a global audience of people who share a appreciation of the wonders of our world and excellence in photography.We look forward to sharing it with the world.

Rainbow, Desert Storm Saguaro National Park, Sonoran Desert. Top photo: A moon setting over Cathedral Rocks, Sedona, Arizona demonstrates the artistry of photographer David Muench (image ca. 1998-2000).

Connect a legacy

Pierre Rungehead of special collections and archives, said the collection’s potential impact was evident to Muench when he and his wife, Ruth Rudner, toured the NAU archives, library and campus in the summer of 2019.

“During our tour, we discussed how we could relate his archival legacy to faculty, curriculum, and students, and it really resonated with him,” Runge said. “His eyes lit up. He wants to inspire student photographers to keep capturing the art of landscape photography.

Apart from the potential integration of the collection in support of high quality scholars, which is one of the elements of NAU’s mission, it is also linked to the university’s commitment to scholarship. hard-hitting, creative endeavors and public service.

“As we dig deeper, the collection also touches on other issues in today’s world,” Runge said. “David has been photographing for over 70 years. During this period, his work not only documents a landscape in time; it also documents changes over time, such as environmental changes, changes to indigenous and ancestral lands, changes caused by forest fires and water, etc. These questions were not necessarily the intention of these photographs; however, they will have a new impact beyond their aesthetic quality and purpose. It’s one of the many aspects of David’s collection that excites me.

Although Muench was born in California and now calls Montana home, he has photographed northern Arizona extensively, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the tops of the San Francisco Peaks, which hold a special place in his heart, Runge said.

“David said he came to the San Francisco Peaks to balance and center himself,” Runge said. “He feels a spiritual connection to the Peaks. Having his archive legacy located in one of his favorite places is appropriate.

The special collections and archives already house the photographic archives of Josef Muench, the father of David Muench, who was a photographer during Arizona Highways for over 50 years. While Josef Muench’s work focused heavily on the Southwest, David Muench’s work includes the Southwest but also demonstrates global reach, Runge said.

“David’s work uses a unique style or technique that he calls ‘near/far’,” Runge said. “It often has an object in the foreground, but often it’s the background that is most important. For example, you can have a rock or a tree in the foreground that frames and contextualizes the background.

Federate a collection

Photographer David Muench captured this dramatic view of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park from Hunts Mesa (image circa 1960-1965).  The park is located on the border of Arizona and Utah within the Navajo Nation.
Photographer David Muench captured this dramatic view of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park from Hunts Mesa (image circa 1960-1965). The park is located on the border of Arizona and Utah within the Navajo Nation.

Muench’s gift encompasses a massive collection of materials: transparencies, slides, prints, and framed exhibits; digital content; books and other publications. There are even a few cameras.

The collection is transferred to the Cline Library from four locations in three western states. Materials collected from the first location in New Mexico filled two 18-foot-long box trucks to the brim (refrigerated trucks are used to ensure photographic materials do not warp, deform or melt ). A subsequent trip to a first location in California filled a third 18-foot truck to capacity; a final trip to a fourth California location filled a van. The documents of the three voyages are now kept in the Special Collections and Archives; the last batch of documents – digital files housed in Montana – will be transferred to the archives by the end of the year.

When the last image is transferred, a collection that was in scattered locations will then be brought together in view of the peaks of San Francisco.

As pieces of the collection are introduced into the NAU archives, archivists record basic information that will help them prioritize and prepare for access to the collection. Once the entire collection is in place, archivists will be able to fully assess the collection and develop a plan to make it available to users. Student employees and interns will participate in classification and archival description activities that will allow them to access the collection, a unique learning opportunity for them.

Dean and University Librarian Cynthia Childrey is thrilled to see the Muench collection come together at the Cline Library and the potential the photographer’s gift holds for the future.

Cottonwood trees are reflected in the Virgin River at the Sinawava Temple in Zion National Park, Utah in this photograph by David Muench (image circa 1965-66).

“It was one of the most exciting experiences of my career to see the David Muench collection arrive at the Cline Library and to have the opportunity to meet him and talk with him about his work,” Childrey said. “We are honored that he has entrusted us with the preservation and access to the David Muench collection for generations to come. We are also extremely excited about the learning and research opportunities this brings to our doorstep.

Given the size and scope of the collection, it will take a lot of time and effort before you can use it. Runge predicts significant demand to access it from well beyond the NAU and northern Arizona, which already attracts world-class landscape photographers due to its natural beauty.

“We anticipate a community will form around him,” Runge said. “It has the potential to attract photographers, artists and others to the Special Collections and Archives to explore the collection. There are a lot of things that people haven’t seen. »

Archives staff plan to provide periodic updates as records are processed and made available to users. For more information, visit the David Muench page on the Special Collections and Archives website.

You can also make a difference in the lives of loggers by donating to the NAU Foundation Collections and Archives Special Fund. Your donation will help support the preservation and expedited access to David Muench’s photographs.

Northern Arizona University Logo

Laura Rose Taylor | Cline Library

Michael E. Marquez