Rhythm of the West

Robin McDonald is an independent graphic designer and photographer in Leeds, Alabama. A native of England, Robin moved to Birmingham at the age of fifteen. He studied art history at Emory University (BA cum laude), and Columbia University (MA)before returning to Birmingham and making the transition to graphic design. From 1979 to 1985, he was the art director of Horizona national arts magazine that had relocated from New York to Tuscaloosa. His work at Horizon earned gold and bronze awards at the New York Art Directors Club in 1981. In 1985, he established a one-man design and photography studio specializing in publication design. From 1986 to 2015  he designed state history textbooks for Clairmont Press, and, since 1991, he has been the designer and photographer for Alabama Heritage magazine, which was recently one of three finalists in its category in the Folio Magazine national awards. Robin has designed a number of books for the University of Alabama Press, including two of his own: Heart of a Small Town: Photographs of Alabama Towns (2003) and Visions of the Black Belt: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama (2015). He has been a member of PaperWorkers Local since 2017.


I made my first trip to the American West more than fifty years ago as a teenager. Having grown up in England, I fell in love with the vastness of the western landscape. My family and I made two more trips to the West in the next five years, but I had not had a chance to make the same sort of rambling road trips until recently when my younger son Shaun moved to Denver. In May and June of 2019, we visited some of the places I had not seen since that first trip in 1966. In many ways, it was like seeing them for the first time. These images are from the first half of the trip, across Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, to California. They are studies of the stunning landforms and breathtaking skies of the desert Southwest, some taken at the iconic sites, some just by pulling over by the side of the road.

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