But the publication of “Sandia – Seasons of a Mountain” is a special publishing event for Muench. He believes “Sandia” represents the first time that a book of his photographs is centered on a single mountain or mountain range.
If these 48 compelling color photos in the large-format book grab readers’ attention, then they should also give some of that attention to the accompanying essay by author Ruth Rudner, Muench’s wife.
Rudner’s essay provides an understanding of the mountain that could not be expressed in photographs.
The recently published book from UNM Press grew out of the couple’s years living in Corrales.
Rudner and Muench lived there from 2001 to 2017, and their home offered an inviting view of the mountain.
“I often said to David, ‘We need to do something on the mountain,'” Rudner recalled in a phone interview from their home in Montana.
This book is in part a result of her urging.
But she noted that Muench had been taking photographs of Sandia long before they’d met. Indeed, Muench, who is 82, said he had taken his first photographs of the mountain when he was a teenager.
“I must have been in high school,” he said in a phone interview. “I think it was my first trip away from my family (in Santa Barbara, Calif.). They loaned me their Ford Ranch Wagon. I got to drift around (the West) and make photos. I was learning what I might want to do in life.”
Seeing Sandia for the first time, Muench said he remembered thinking, “I have to be up there. It just struck me. … I didn’t hike it. I drove to the top and started photographing on the rim. It was compelling and I had a spontaneous reaction. … I developed an affair with the mountain. I have been there and worked up there often since.”
The photographs in the book are from 1978 to 2014, though a large majority were from the last 13 years of that period, coinciding with the couple’s Corrales residence.
Muench took photographs of Sandia from various locations on the mountain and in the Rio Grande Valley.
“It’s the significance of the moods (of the subject) that impresses me. The contrast between the desert and the forest is big to me. So I try to show it,” he explained.
Four of this reviewer’s favorite Muench photos in the book are these – a close-up of an ice-encrusted Douglas fir along the crest; a forested area in shades of green along La Luz Trail; the mountain in the background in deep shadow and in the middle ground a row of trees sun-lit in fall colors on the desert floor; and nature’s own garden of wildflowers sneaking through limestone crevices on the rim.
In the book’s preface Muench and Rudner state that the essay isn’t intended to describe the photos, nor are the photos supposed to illustrate the text.
Rudner’s essay tells interrelated stories – of Sandia Pueblo’s ancient and sacred relationship to the mountain, of the mountain’s wildlife, botany, geology and the history of its land management.
She said her prime interest is the Sandia Mountain Wilderness.
“The thing that matters to me most about it is that it has managed to become a wilderness,” Rudner said.