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Kyle Johnson's Lookout Project

July 28, 2013
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Kyle Johnson was commissioned by Filson to photograph gradually decaying wildfire lookout points in Washington State Forests. What he found was the location of the next Wes Anderson film. Not actually, but the photographs do have a strange quality as if they were taken during the past century. Part of the reason could be because Johnson used medium format film, but Johnson’s subject — nature and the hidden treasures within it — is a stunning visual study of rural history appropriately called “The Lookout Project.” Filson’s website explains, “In the late 1930s to mid 1940s, the United States scrambled to build as many Fire Lookout towers as possible to protect against a growing number of wildfires. Washington State alone had over 600 in use during this time. Lookout Rangers worked this special summer job, acting as a lifeline for the forest and helping to protect what so many people take for granted.” Among these special summer employees was famous nomadic writer Jack Kerouac, who spent a period as one of the lookouts on duty. As time passed, the lookout points were slowly and sadly lost, destroyed, and vandalized. Today, 92 are still standing, as documented in Johnson’s extensive photographic essay.Johnson traveled across the North Western state to capture the structures that withstood many years of mother nature. Although nature had taken its course on many of the lookouts, the ones that remain are a rare and beautiful view of nature and history. The 29-year-old hiked immense peaks and mountains to thoroughly study the forest and preserve this history through his lens. The result are images of breathtaking views, unusual encounters, and these unusually beautiful structures containing remnants of another time.

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