With 700,000 acres of practically untouched Nevada wilderness, you don’t so much visit Basin and Range National Monument as you supplicate to it. You have to approach with caution and planning. You have to respect the fact that it’s difficult to access. And once there, the land commands your full attention. Cell phone service? Visitor centers? It’s not that kind of park. But for your reward: unspoiled land stretching out to the horizon.
Where art instructor Checko Salgado saw virgin territory, he also saw opportunity. The terrain was so wild, so raw, it was begging to be photographed. He contacted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to arrange a trip for his Photography for Graphic Designers class. The first venture in fall 2015 didn’t go smoothly despite planning — their van got stuck on the trip out — but for the 16 students who went, it left its mark.
Salgado invited students again in the spring 2016 semester, and tagging along was Matt Segundo. He had made the trip the previous semester before graduating in December 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in art. He was so struck by the area that he knew he had to return with the group of eight that made the second trip.
“I couldn’t wait to get back and produce more shots because the area was just beautiful, unforgiving, open, barren,” Segundo said. “This time it seemed more so. Once you get it the first time, it sparks your interest to go again.”
The photos Segundo and his classmates shot were exhibited at Archie C. Grant Hall. Representatives from the BLM drove down from Caliente to see it. The National Conservation Lands program, part of the BLM, wanted to use the shots to make posters to promote the monument.
“I took my cues from the [Works Progress Administration] posters in the mid-’30s. They were doing the Conservation Corps, and they’d go out and paint,” Salgado said. “We’re photographers. We’re going to do that same style but we’re going to bring in some modern technology, bring in some modern fonts.”
The experience has already paid off for Segundo. The posters became a key piece of his portfolio and helped him land a job with Salesforce in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, professor Salgado showed off the posters in September at an exhibit in the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C., to promote Nevada and the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. And he’s taking students out in mid-October for their next project. They will shoot from Alamo to Ash Springs to Lund and Ely to gather photos for a map made by the Outside Las Vegas Foundation to promote the area.
“A lot of people don’t know about the Basin and Range — it’s like a huge major piece of artwork out here that we’ve been fighting for,” Salgado said. “This land has been used from 4,000 to 10,000 years. You can walk to a place like a cove, and you’ll just drag your hand and lift it up and there will be three or four arrowheads. We made it our own. It’s part of our backyard, and the way I promoted it to the students and people involved is it’s almost like we’re creating a new country. We’re giving it an identity.”