Before he died, photographer Sarah Wilson’s grandfather gave her three black metal boxes filled with faded Kodachromes. The images featured geologic charts, rock formations, bone fragments and skulls, and landscapes from his annual digs in West Texas and Big Bend National Park. These were his teaching slides from when he was a professor of Geology and Paleontology at the University of Texas. Holding them up to the light, Wilson realized that she and her grandfather photographed some of the exact same desert landscapes, from the same vantage points, only fifty years apart. This shared connection ignited an adventure and a long-term project, featured in the pages of her first book, DIG.
Wilson joins paleontologists on digs every winter in the Big Bend area, searching for bones and photographing the same stark desert landscapes featured in those vintage 35mm transparencies. But her work is not just an homage to her grandfather. She has created conceptual self-portraits in the style of geology and anatomy charts, combining the personal and the scientific. For Sarah, these annual digs are a pilgrimage to an origin story that reaches beyond traceable generations. Each bone collected is evidence of the slow, significant work of evolution, serving as a bracing reminder that we, as humans, sit at the very end of that timeline.