The tiny fragility of Hoover Dam

Aerial view of Hoover Dam, near Boulder City, Nevada. By Carol Highsmith

Looking for art for the new book, I ran across the above picture from the amazing Library of Congress collection of Carol Highsmith’s work. Hoover Dam as cultural icon is big and muscular, which is by design and also a function of the fact that it’s hard to get back and see the dam in context. Most pictures are taken from up close, and from that vantage point it really does look big and muscular.

But if you get back a bit to see its context, it looks tiny, and fragile. Which is a nice metaphor.


  1. Funny how things look different when you see the big picture. I had found an outstanding photo of the international space station looking down on the Lower Colorado Basin showing the reservoirs, the Salton Sea and a thin rendering of the river. The landscape being as bleak as Mars. Used this as an opening slide in a couple of presentations. Of any one photo, this one summed up how fragile the entire system is.

    Hoover Dam being the National Icon that it is, the term ‘Monumental Dam’ is used. A visible symbol of the country and its accomplishments. The best picture on these lines was taken in 1996 when the worlds largest American Flag was draped over it. The irony of this was the flag was on the Dam long enough to take the photo. The winds kicking up making the flag unmanageable and unsafe to be around. They were afraid that if it was kept up any longer it would be torn to shreds.

    I guess that there is a metaphor in this too.

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