Interview with Corinne Platt, author of “Voices of the American West”
June 7, 2011 Leave a comment
This week, we caught up with Corinne Platt, coauthor of Voices of the American West with Meredith Ogilby. This documentary-style collection of photographs and narratives profiles a wide range of prominent figures of the West as they engage in candid discussions about the region and its identity. A diverse group of visionary men and women, they may differ in politics but remain united in their belief that the West requires inspired action if it is going to endure challenges posed by political, cultural, and environmental pressures. Allowing those on each side of the issues to speak freely, this important work tackles such topics as education, recreation, immigration, ranching, alternative energy, wildlife habitat protection, oil and gas extraction, urban development, and water conservation. Exemplifying photography and journalism at its best, Voices of the American West provides a panoramic view of today’s evolving West. The collection features Terry Tempest Williams, Stewart Udall, Katie Lee, Dave Foreman, and many others.
Please talk a little bit about your decision (and possibly indecision!) to begin this journey and create Voices of the American West.
Meredith began the project as a way to profile and photograph some of Colorado’s original “mountain men/visionaries.” When she asked me to come aboard, we decided that we wanted to look at the major issues of the West through the eyes of people on the ground working to make change and create solutions. The original pioneers were our inspiration to seek out people unafraid of challenge and willing to take risks to make positive change.
What was the most challenging part of creating this book? Favorite part? Any humorous incidents?
We spent a lot of time driving around the West. Traveling to the more-out-of-the-way places—like El Capitan, New Mexico, where Sid Goodloe lives and ranches. On the way to Sid’s we got two flat tires. We’d usually find someplace to take a walk or a hike, and one day outside of Helena, Montana, we hiked to the top of a small mountain where an Anatolian shepherd dog chased us back. During our retreat to the car, a herd of cows charged and cornered us into a little corral. We laughed our heads off, but it was a bit dicey.
Deciding who to include in the book was constant work and research. Tracking people down who we wanted was sometimes challenging, but always so rewarding. We fell in love with most of the people we interviewed and gained great empathy for their work.
What kind of personal feedback have you received about the book since its publication, in September 2009?
“I am totally fascinated by this book and the people in it. It is local and yet so global. The stories are so inspiring. I never would have imagined [it] would be so hard to put down.” —Rita Shenkel, Colorado native
“ [Voices of the American West] is an easy and enjoyable way of getting a comprehensive history of the West. It’s a beautiful and inviting book. You see it, and you want to read it.” —Joan May, San Miguel County Commissioner
“Reading this book has inspired me to pursue an avenue for MY voice in the challenges facing the West.” —Aspiring writer from Redstone, Colorado
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
The stories in the book are inspiring and hopeful. Readers will come away knowing that there are people in the West working hard for the better of us all, pursuing personal visions—be it land restoration, cultural preservation, or alternative energy—and that any individual can work to make a difference.