Randy Prentice

My dad was a photographer, but I never had much interest in photography until my first wife persuaded me to buy a camera. Once I held it in my hand and figured out how it worked, I was hooked. I took some classes and started getting a better understanding of how to make landscape photographs. At the time, Pima Community College, in Tucson, had 4x5 cameras you could rent, and I knew Arizona Highways, a magazine I’d always liked, published a lot of 4x5 photographs. So, I started shooting that way, and my photos first appeared in the magazine in February 1986. I still have that issue, and I think it’s still shrink-wrapped.

I made this image the following year, in August 1987, near Sonoita in Southern Arizona. I had driven past this stand of agaves a couple of times while I was coming home from Parker Canyon Lake, and I had never seen anything like it — the number of vertical agave stalks in the scene was very unusual. I really wanted to shoot it, but I didn’t know who owned the property, and I didn’t want to trespass and be looking over my shoulder the whole time.

This was in the pre-internet days, of course, so I had to do some old-fashioned detective work. I stopped at the store in Sonoita and asked around, and they gave me the name of a nice woman who owned the land. She said it would be no problem if I wanted to shoot there, so I was all set, and accessing the area was relatively easy.

I had all afternoon to shoot, so there was no time pressure, and I pretty much stayed within a 25-yard radius the whole day. I took my time and experimented, and fortunately, the weather cooperated and I was able to make several nice 4x5 images. I’ve always admired the work of photographers such as Jay Maisel and Pete Turner, whose work had a real graphic quality, and I think this shot has some of that in it. And it was the result of a lot of good fortune — which, in a way, is also an apt description of my career in photography.