Alumni News

Documenting a Landscape

A person leans out a car window and their reflection can be seen in the large side mirror.
Photo by John Snyder

Raised in Moscow, Idaho, John P. Snyder (’99) was shaped by the landscape around him. “The hills of the Palouse region of Idaho are the residue of violent processes. Airborne dust from volcanoes, massive floods, and glaciation built soil that has become one of the world’s most productive agricultural areas,” notes Snyder. “I grew up looking out into the undulating hills and wondering, ‘What is out there?’”

A headshot of the photographer, John P. Snyder.
John Snyder

It’s a question the former BYU photographer is still trying to answer. After years of shooting images of BYU’s campus, people, and happenings (1984–99), including innumerable images published in this magazine, he moved back to Idaho in 2007 to explore the contours and preserve the spirit of his homeland.

“I’ve set several tasks for myself: to describe the curve and substance of the hill form, to give a sense of the vast and spare nature of the area, and to preserve a unique agricultural aesthetic,” he says.

He often creates negatives up to 12 × 20 inches the way they were made in the early years of photography, using large wooden cameras with bellows, focused under a dark cloth. “The cameras needed for making such big negatives require a different way of working,” he says. “I have to slow down, look carefully, and sort through many options before even setting up the tripod. Although some images are found readily, others result from searching, gaining familiarity, and imagining what the possibilities might be.”

web: See more of Snyder’s work at

A large black and white image of the vast Palouse landscape.
Photo by John Snyder

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