On the morning of February 22nd, 1856, U.S. Indian Agent George H. Ambrose carried out his orders from General Joel Palmer to forcefully remove and march several hundred indigenous men, women, and children from their aboriginal homeland in Southern Oregon to a Reservation in the Mid-Willamette Valley 263 miles away. This thirty-two-day journey was filled with deceit, suffering, death, and murder.
This project started with several years of preparation and research, reading through thousands of historical letters, looking over old survey maps from the 1850s, and utilizing satellite imagery from today. I was able to retrace the entire route and locate bygone roads that are no longer in existence while following others that are still here today. I made these photographs using an antique wooden view camera and the wet plate collodion photo process from the 1850s and paired them with the journal entries written in the same time period. These landscape photographs illustrate the fraught expedition that Ambrose detailed in his daily journal. The imperfect photos play off the serendipitous technical flaws to create ghostly images that echo the grim history of the past and capture the forgotten and seldom told story of Oregon's “Trail of Tears.”