The Salt River Project follows the Salt River from the recreation areas East of Phoenix out to the Gillespie Dam West of Phoenix. It is the story of an urban desert river.

The project begins with the conceptual framework provided by high water marks. Clumps of dirt, plastic bags and plant growth five feet up in trees serve as a reminder that the dry riverbed is not dead, but only dormant. Too often in the desert, water concerns orbit around the idea that we’re using up all our resources and that the dryness is a sign of the dismal future. Though transient communities have made the river channel home, and others use it as a dumping ground, sooner or later the water will rise again. Everything found in the channel is colored with this knowledge.

In exploring the Salt River bed and banks, the garbage becomes remnants and artifacts. I am an archaeologist attempting to piece together the meaning of each pile of trash dumped and beer can left behind. Who, why, when? People have left marks of recreation, as well. Fire pits, beer cans, and fishing wire. Good times gone, more than just footprints left behind.

I become sensitive to the difference between different kinds of dry. The dry of the surrounding desert contrasted against the dry of the riverbed, which is filled with the memory of water.


Adam Thorman

About Adam Thorman

Adam Thorman was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his BFA in Photography from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 2003 and his MFA from Arizona State University in 2009. His work has been exhibited nationally, including at the Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles, Pictura Gallery in Bloomington, IN and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, AZ. His work is in the permanent collection of SFMOMA. He has taught at Prescott College in Arizona, Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division, Kala Art Institute in Berkeley and he is currently teaching photography at The Athenian School in Danville, CA and at Berkeley Art Studio at UC Berkeley. He lives and works in Oakland, CA. Growing up in the verdant urban environment of the San Francisco Bay Area helped shape Adam Thorman’s artistic voice. An early interest in mythology has led to a poetic interpretation of his surroundings. As an adult he has fought to maintain a sense of child-like wonder about the world. With an eye on poetry and metaphor, his artwork stems from a subtle sensitivity to light and deals with the transformation that can occur when the everyday world is carefully considered.