Mark Ruwedel: Message From the Exterior // Ouarzazate (Mack, 2016//18)

Mark Ruwedel (born June 11, 1954) is an American landscape photographer and educator. He has made work depicting evidence of human presence in remote, barren and desert regions of North America, predominantly in black and white.

Ruwedel was Associate Professor at Concordia University, Montreal from 1984 to 2001 and has been Professor of Art at California State University, Long Beach since 2002. He is based in both California and coastal British Columbia.

In 2014 he was awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Scotiabank Photography Award. In 2018 he was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.


(1) Message from the Exterior (2016)

Message from the Exterior explores the ruins and remains of failed attempts to live in the desert’s harsh environments, depicting abandoned houses – small, often eccentric huts, both humorous and a little forlorn.

Ruwedel examines the desert regions east of Los Angeles as a palimpsest of cultural and natural histories, presenting an inventory of a particular, and poignant, form of vernacular architecture; each structure might be read as a clue to the lives of anonymous individuals, and the impulse to create a home in the wilderness, however transitory.

The first section, ‘Desert Houses’, comprises 68 desert structures, while the second section, ‘Dusk’, presents houses photographed after the sun had disappeared over the horizon, now rendered in subdued, dusky tones that suggest both present and absence, and the weight of isolation. Publisher’s Info

Publisher: Mack Books

(2) Ouarzazate (2018)

Invited by the American Friends of the Marrakech Museum for Photography and the Visual Arts to propose a project for his artist residency there, Ruwedel photographed the movie sets in 2014 and 2016.

Much of the filming activity in Ouarzazate has been for costume and Biblical epics. Cleopatra, The Garden of Eden, The Mummy, The Last Temptation of Christ; but also The Sheltering Sky and The Hills Have Eyes.

Far from the American deserts where he has produced much of his work of the past thirty years, in Morocco Ruwedel continues his long term interest in contemporary ruins and the histories of both landscape and landscape photography. The photographs are eerily reminiscent of 19th century European photography of ancient Egypt and the Middle East. Publisher’s Info

Publisher: Mack Books

Related Videos:
(1) Mark Ruwedel by the National Gallery of Art (Youtube)
(2) Burning The Town Down – A portrait of Mark Ruwedel by the Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts (Youtube)
(3) Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2019 Nominee: Mark Ruwedel (Youtube)