In White Noise (1985) by Don DeLillo, two characters visit a famous barn, described as the “most photographed barn in America” alongside hordes of picture-taking tourists. One of them complains the barn has become a simulacrum, so that “no one sees” the actual barn anymore. This implies that there was once a real barn, which has been lost in the “virtual” image. This is in line with Plato’s concept of the simulacrum as a false or “corrupt” copy, which has lost all connection with the “original.” Plotinus, however, offered a different definition: the simulacrum distorts reality in order to reveal the invisible, the Ideal. There is a real building which has been called “the most photographed barn in America”: the Thomas Moulton Barn in the Grand Teton National Park. The location—barn in the foreground, mountain range towering over it—forms a striking visual composition. But the site is not only famous because it is photogenic. Images of the barn in part evoke the heroic struggles of pioneers living on the frontier. They also draw on the tradition of the “American sublime.” Ralph Waldo Emerson defined the sublime as “the influx of the Divine mind into our mind.” He followed Plotinus in valuing art as a means of “revelation”—with the artist as a kind of prophet or “seer.” The photographers who collect at the Moulton Barn are themselves consciously working within this tradition, and turning themselves into do-it-yourself “artist-seers.” They are the creators, not the slaves of the simulacrum.
simulacrum, sublime, DeLillo, Baudrillard, Plato
Adams, Ansel. Ansel Adams: Letters and Images, 1916–1984. Ed. Mary Street Alinder and Andrea Gray Stillman. Boston: Little, 1988. Print.
Adams, Ansel. Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. Boston: Little, 1989. Print.
Adams, Ansel, and Mary Street Alinder. Ansel Adams: An Autobiography. Boston: Little, 1996. Print.
Adams, Ansel, and Nancy Newhall. This is the American Earth. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1968. Print.
Badiou, Alain. Deleuze: The Clamor of Being. Trans. Louise Burchill. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000. Print.
Bhattacharya, Shaoni. “Ansel Adams: Capturing Wilderness on Camera.” Newscientist.com. New Scientist 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Glaser. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1994. Print.
Besançon, Alain. The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm. Trans. Jane Marie Todd. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. Print.
Bridges, Thomas. “Moments of Grace: Spirit in the American Landscape.” Aperture 150 (Winter 1998): 2. Print.
Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. London: Dodsley, 1767. Print.
Clow, Jeff R. “Ansel Tribute at the Barn.” Flickr.com. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Cole, Thomas. “Essay on American Scenery.” The Native Landscape Reader. Ed. Robert E. Grese. Amherst, MA: U of Massachusetts P in association with the Library of American Landscape History, 2011. 27–36. Print.
Colebrook, Claire. Gilles Deleuze. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Colley, Paul. Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera: The Essential Guide to Creating Engaging Photos. Oxford: Dived Up, 2014. Print.
Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Ken Knabb. Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2014. Print.
Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986. Print.
Deleuze, Gilles. The Logic of Sense. Trans. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.
DeLillo, Don. White Noise. London: Penguin, 1985. Print.
Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Orlando: Harcourt, 1987. Print.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Vol. 5. Ed. Merton M. Sealts. Cambridge, MA: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1965. Print.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Vol. 1: “Nature, Addresses, and Lectures.” Ed. Robert E. Spiller and Alfred R. Ferguson. Cambridge, MA: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1971. Print.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Vol. 2: “Essays: First Series.” Ed. Joseph Slater, Alfred R. Ferguson and Jean Ferguson Carr. Cambridge, MA: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1979. Print.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Vol. 3: “Essays: Second Series.” Ed. Joseph Slater, Alfred R. Ferguson and Jean Ferguson Carr. Cambridge, MA: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1983. Print.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843–1871. Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 2001. Print.
“em-T-sails.” “Re: Best Photography Spots for 1 or 2 Day Visit.” Tripadvisor. co.uk. 28 Mar. 2010. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Euben, J. Peter. Platonic Noise. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2003. Print.
Fine, Gail. “Knowledge and Belief in Republic V-VII.” Epistemology. Ed. Stephen Everson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. 85–115. Print.
Franzel, Sean. “Time and Narrative in the Mountain Sublime Around 1800.” Heights of Reflection: Mountains in the German Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Sean Moore Ireton and Caroline Schaumann. Rochester, NY: Camden, 2012. 98–115. Print.
Frye, Michael. Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. London: Ilex, 2009. Print.
Gatta, John. Making Nature Sacred: Literature, Religion, and Environment in America from the Puritans to the Present. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
Geyh, Paula E. “Assembling Postmodernism: Experience, Meaning, and the Space In-Between.” College Literature 230.2 (2003): 1–29. Print.
Greenham, David. Emerson’s Transatlantic Romanticism. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.
Hall, Mike. “First Light on the T.A. Moulton Barn, Jackson Hole.” Mhallphoto.animus3.com. 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Hammond, Anne. Ansel Adams: Divine Performance. New Haven: Yale UP, 2002. Print.
Harrison, John S. Teachers of Emerson. New York: Haskell, 1966. Print.
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991. Print.
Johnson, Leigh M. “The Most Photographed Barn in America.” Readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore.com. 10 Dec. 2007. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Kasaian, John. “Re: Ansel Adams’ Clearing Winter Storm.” Largeformatphotography.info. 14 Sept. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Kim, Eric. “8 Lessons Ansel Adams Can Teach You About Photography.” Erickimphotography.com. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Kinsey, Joni. Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West. Washington: Smithsonian Institute, 1992. Print.
Knight, Peter. “DeLillo, Postmodernism, Postmodernity.” The Cambridge Companion to Don DeLillo. Ed. John N. Duvall. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. 27–41. Print.
Lake, Medicine Grizzlybear. “Power Centers.” The Power of Place: Sacred Ground in Natural and Human Environments. Ed. James A. Swan. Wheaton, IL: Quest, 1991. 48–59. Print.
Leary, Catie. “Photographer Traces Ansel Adams’ Footsteps in Breathtaking New Book.” Mnn.com. 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Meehan, Sean Ross. Mediating American Autobiography: Photography in Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, and Whitman. Columbia, MO: U of Missouri P, 2008. Print.
Meyer, Judith L. The Spirit of Yellowstone: The Cultural Evolution of a National Park. Lanham, MD: Rowman, 1996. Print.
Miller, Angela. “The Fate of Wilderness in American Landscape Art: The Dilemmas of ‘Nature’s Nation.’” American Wilderness: A New History. Ed. Michael Lewis. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. 91–112. Print.
“Nature Photography: Think Like Ansel Adams Today.” Outdoorphotographer.com. 3 Feb. 2009. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Novak, Barbara. American Landscape and Painting, 1825–1875. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
Parkinson, John. Visual Verse: Art in Nature with Symbiotic Verse. Austin, TX: Synergy, 2006. Print.
Plantinga, Carl. “Moving Pictures and the Rhetoric of Nonfiction: Two Approaches.” Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. Ed. David Bordwell and Noel Carroll. Madison, WI: U of Wisconsin P, 1996. 307–24. Print.
Plato. The Republic. Trans. H. D. P. Lee. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1953. Print.
Plotinus. Enneads. Vol. 5. Trans. A. H. Armstrong. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984. Print.
Porter, James L. The Sublime in Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2016. Print.
Rubinstein, Paul, Lee H. Whittlesey, and Mike Stevens. The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery. Englewood, CO: Westcliffe, 2000. Print.
Schuster, Mark. Don DeLillo, Jean Baudrillard, and the Consumer Conundrum. Youngstown, NY: Cambria, 2008. Print.
Sheff, David, and Victoria Sheff. “Ansel Adams: The Playboy Interview.” Playboy 30.5 (May 1983). Davidsheff.com. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Silber, Marc. “Learn Ansel Adams’ Biggest Secret for Stunning Photography—Visualization.” Digital-photography-school.com. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Stanley, Edwin James. Rambles in Wonderland: Or, Up the Yellowstone, and Among the Geysers and Other Curiosities of the National Park. New York: Appleton, 1878. Print.
Stewart, J. Riley. “A Study in Luminosity: What Photographers Can Learn from Other Artists.” Jrileystewart.com. 3 Jan. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Stewart, J. Riley. “Revelations About Art and Artists: Behind the ‘Photographer’s Eye.’” Jrileystewart.com. 27 Feb. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Storrow, Benjamin. “Legacy of the Tetons: T. A. Moulton Barn Turns 100.” Billingsgazette.com. The Billings Gazette 4 July 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2018.
Tabbi, Joseph, and Michael Wutz. Introduction. Reading Matters: Narrative in the New Media Ecology. Ed. Joseph Tabbi and Michael Wutz. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1997. 1–25. Print.
Turnage, Robert. “Ansel Adams: The Role of the Artist in the Environmental Movement.” The Living Wilderness 43.148 (1980). Anseladams.com. Web. 2 Apr. 2018.
Waypoint Tours. Yellowstone National Park Tour Guide Book. Scottsdale, AZ: Waypoint Tours, 2009. Print.
Weiskel, Thomas. The Romantic Sublime: Studies in the Structure and Psychology of Transcendence. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1976. Print.
Wilson, Keith. Viewfinder: 100 Top Locations for Great Travel Photography. Hove: RotoVision, 2004. Print.