Book Review – The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon on the Colorado

Eliot Porter - Pools in Aztec Creek, Glen Canyon, Utah 1962-09-055 stars. The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon on the Colorado is a book that is intellectually stimulating, visually stunning, utterly peaceful, and entirely maddening. The lush photography of Eliot Porter illustrates so much beauty in the interplay of water, light, rock, and plants. And to think that all this is inundated under Lake Powell by the Glen Canyon Dam–a sickening loss of a natural wonder.

Porter’s photography is noteworthy for its use of color, texture, and reflection. Glen Canyon was a perfect playground for his lenses, with high, narrow slots tightly channeling the light against the vivid stone of the southwestern US. Few of the photographs show wide landscape views; many find grandeur in the small details of the canyon and its life. Water is often absent, though its role in carving the canyon is always palpable.

The beautifully-reproduced full color plates are paired with quotes from naturalists, thinkers, and notes from John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition through the canyon. The edition I have is the 1988 reissue, featuring expanded photographs from Porter’s collection.

The Place No One Knew stands as a testament both to Porter’s talents and a beautiful place that we chose to destroy. It is a shame that Glen Canyon may only be experienced through 50 year old photographs.


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