In the Navajo language, Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii describes the high desert plateau along the Arizona-Utah border formed from sediments deposited layer by layer over eons of geologic time. For more than 50 million years, erosion, wind and weather have stripped away the softer strata to reveal the awe-inspiring sandstone buttes and mesas rising from the desert floor that give Monument Valley its name.

Elmer A. Hubbard in Monument Valley

From his shop in Flagstaff,  AZ, Hubbard sold, installed and maintained many of the one-cylinder, diesel Woody generators that powered the trading posts long before electricity reached the Navajo Reservation. He would load the heavy equipment into his truck and head out on narrow dirt roads to the trading posts in the  remote communities of Kayenta, Oljato, Inscription House, Ganado, Chinle and his favorite haunt, Monument Valley; always with his camera always close at hand.

Hubbard  and Harry Goulding, a pioneer in this region of the country and founder of Gouldings Lodge, became close friends. When the work was done these two kindred spirits liked nothing better than knocking around the Valley and visiting with the Navajo sheepherders and artisans they called their friends. It was on these road trips in the late 1940s that the photography bug bit Hubbard.

This was back when Goulding had enticed the Hollywood director John Ford to consider Monument Valley as the backdrop for his epic westerns. There were stories of their hiking out away from the lodge with the likes of John Wayne and Victor McLaglen for impromptu target pistol matches. But the star appeal would never outshine Hubbard’s keener interest in the natural splendor.

 

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