Photography •  History and Southwest

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In Search of Dominguez & Escalante: Photographing the 1776 Spanish Expedition Through the Southwest

Photographs by Siegfried Halus
Photographs by Greg Mac Gregor

On 29 July 1776, Franciscan friars Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestro Velez de Escalante embarked on an expedition to seek an overland route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Monterey, California. Although the Spaniards did not reach their final destination, the expedition is widely regarded as one of the great explorations in western U.S. history for its documentation of the land and Native people in the Four Corners. The group—including cartographer Don Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, Ute-speaking guides, and the alcalde (mayor) of Zuni—circumnavigated 1,800 miles of uncharted territory never before seen by Europeans, an arduous five-month trip documented in Escalante's journal, a widely read historical account of the exploration. More than two hundred years later Greg Mac Gregor and Siegfried Halus have created a remarkable visual record of the expedition. Using Escalante's journal as their guide, the photographers followed the expeditionary route, circling through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, and documenting the frontier as first witnessed by the Spanish explorers on horseback. The expedition passed what today are major national parks and landforms: Zion Canyon, Dinosaur Monument, and the Grand Canyon. The photographs show many areas virtually unchanged over centuries; other images reveal the passage of time in pictures of dammed rivers, power lines, and towns where virgin forests once stood. Quoting widely from Escalante's journal, the authors present firsthand accounts of the expedition alongside their photographic narrative. Essays by the photographers discuss their methodology and experiences as modern-day explorers retracing the steps of the friars. In his historical essay, Joseph P. Sanchez writes about the lasting legacy of the Spanish expeditions.


Greg Mac Gregor is a renowned photographer and educator whose works have been exhibited internationally. Mac Gregor is a professor emeritus of photography at California State University. He is the author of Overland: The California Emigrant Trail of 18411870 (University of New Mexico Press).

Siegfried Halus is a renowned photographer and educator whose work has been exhibited internationally. He is the former director of the art department of Santa Fe Community College and the photographer of Living Shrines: Home Alters of New Mexico (Museum of New Mexico Press).


"In 1776 Franciscan friars Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante set out on an expedition from Santa Fe to Monterey, California, that historians widely acknowledge for the quality of its documentation of the land and the Native peoples. In recent years, Santa Fe photographers Greg Mac Gregor and Siegfried Halus set out to retrace this 1,800-mile journey, document the places and people they encountered, and reflect on the original expedition's challenges and accomplishments. This handsome coffee-table book begins with historical context and essays from the photographers about their approach. Then, using ample excerpts from Escalante's journals and their own observations, they recount their circumnavigation of the Four Corners area. Their journey through New Mexico takes them past a penitente morada in Abiquiú, abandoned buildings in Tierra Amarilla, and the Isleta and Laguna Pueblo reservations—all of which they capture in elegant black-and-white photography that lends quiet grandeur even to decrepit sights along their route. This is history at its best: In Search of Dominguez & Escalante thoughtfully revisits a little-known aspect of the past with a deep consideration for how history has affected places and people today."


New Mexico Magazine

"Greg Mac Gregor and Siegfried Halus retrace Domínguez and Escalante's arduous eighteen hundred-mile trek through the Southwest with cameras in hand and Escalante's journal to guide them. The work provides the first photographic record of the entire route with beautiful images that reveal the seemingly timelessness of the region's peoples and landscapes. . . . The authors provide excellent editorial notations and maps that lead readers through the journal entries and photographs. . . . The work is a gem for anyone intrigued by this period of exploration in the Southwest and modern efforts to preserve our endangered historic trails for future generations."


New Mexico Historical Review

"Superbly illustrated with black-and-white plates by two renowned photographers and educators whose work has been exhibited internationally, this book is an invaluable treasure trove . . . for the general reader and aficionados of historic trails."


Colonial Latin American Historical Review

Published By Museum of New Mexico Press

11 x 9 in. 232 pages 145 duotone photographs, 5 maps