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Documentary photography of rock art

$710 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 12 people in 1 month
Help me document the ancient rock-art of the American West!

The Project:

As I’ve traveled throughout the western U.S. on various photography projects I’ve begun documenting the Ancient Artworks I’ve found.  Ancient American Indian rock art, petroglyphs (made by chipping rock surfaces) and pictographs (made by painting or dying rock surfaces), are found throughout the American west.  These Native American artworks are between 500 & 4000 years old and some are even more ancient.  These are beautiful symbols and stories, permanently preserved in stone by ancient American Indian Shaman-Artists.  Imagine the native artist of 2000 years ago; he spent nearly every waking hour simply surviving; hunting, gathering, seeking water and shelter and yet he still made art that survived to modern times!

 I want to document as many petroglyphs as I can, modernize some of the ancient artists’ works, and share them with those who can’t see the sites for themselves.  Funding would be used for travel to the rock art sites and for post-production of the resultant photos.

Many of the rock art sites are protected within National Parks and Monuments –except now, because of political machinations, our parks and monuments themselves aren’t exactly protected—which leaves these delicate ancient rock art sites endangered again.  An example of a potentially at-risk site is this one, in the newly-shrunken Bears Ears National Monument:

Other sites, in non-protected areas, have been heavily vandalized by graffiti and even bullets! 

Here's a site vandalized by graffiti

Hopefully my new photos will lead to a greater awareness of the rock art sites and their continual need for preservation.  Availability of high-quality photographs, both documentary & artistic, obtainable by anyone interested should result in less vandalism and destruction of these sacred sites.

Documentary photos of Rock Art




While there are already many photographs of Rock Art much of the existing photography is of an academic nature aimed at archeologists, folklorists and researchers.  Much of the ‘fine-art’ photographs that include Petroglyphs and Pictographs are landscape photos in which the Rock Art isn’t the main subject.  My goal is to create elegant documentary photos and to create new impressionistic works using the ancient Rock Art as a starting-point.

The Goal:

After I find and photograph petroglyph sites I will process the photos three ways:

1.       Straight, unretouched documentary photos.  Primarily for academic/study use.

2.       Retouched, removing signs of decay and vandalism.  I will do my best to return the image to what it most likely looked like at the time the petroglyph was created.  For exhibition or publication.

3.       Using the retouched petroglyph as starting-point I will digitally post-process the image to create something new, based on the old.  This is my own artistic interpretation to build on what the ancient artist left.  A continuance of expression hundreds or thousands of years after the source material was created.

Artistic reinterpretation of Ancient Rock Art



Up to this point I’ve self-funded the project but it’s grown far beyond what I’d originally begun and I’d like you to help out.  Mainly, funding will be used to cover travel expenses: fuel and lodging.  Occasionally fees or other gratuities must be paid to access private lands or sacred Indian sites that are either unknown or forbidden to White Men.  From time to time Indian guides must be hired to visit some sites and they must be compensated.  Any extra funds will go to pay for printing, postage, presentation and exhibition/publication.

Ultimately I’d like to photograph at least thirty-six sites in seven states --or as much as funding will allow!


About me:

I’m a full-time professional photographer with over thirty-five years of experience.  I have a degree in photography.  I work with both film and digital and have produced photography and digital art for advertising and editorial clients worldwide.  I’ve produced works in a variety of styles including abstract-expressionism, surrealism, impressionism and photojournalism.  For this project documenting Ancient American Rock Art I will be working in a straightforward documentary style photographically and then continuing the Ancient Artists’ work digitally in an impressionistic style.


For 2018 I already have two, small, exhibitions of some of this work scheduled for galleries in Arizona.  Once the project is completed I will seek a large-scale venue for an extensive exhibition.  I also will produce boxed-set portfolios of the imagery.

And if I find there is enough interest, a book may be produced.  Stay tuned for that.

Please donate!

Help me document the past
and bring the ancient art into the future!


Thank You!!
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To everyone who has donated so generously to my GoFundMe campaign:

The opening reception for my exhibition at the Village Gallery in Sedona was Friday night. This was the first time the Petroglyph images have been exhibited in a brick-&-mortar gallery. As the ‘guest artist’ I only had a small space where I showed seven artworks, four from the Petroglyph Project. Although the crowd was a little smaller than we’d hoped for everyone was excited about the works and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I am grateful for this because it tells me we’re on the right track! This exhibition will be held-over for the month of March. On Friday March 2 we will have a second reception corresponding with the First Friday ArtWalk in Sedona.

I always meet interesting people and have lively conversations at gallery openings. I met two women Friday night, one was from Minnesota and married to an archeologist and another local woman whose husband works for the forest service. The Minnesota woman told me about some pictographs her husband knows of in Minnesota that are only accessible by boat! I may have to go to Minnesota to photograph those pictographs! Since most sites are concentrated in the desert southwest such a northern location is quite unique. The other woman whose husband works for the forest service tells me he knows of some Petroglyph sites that are off the beaten path and inaccessible to the general public. I will be contacting him soon to guide me to those relatively unknown petroglyphs right here in central Arizona!

The Village Gallery exhibition runs through March 30. After that I’ll be exhibiting the works right here at home in Prescott, Arizona at the Arts Prescott Gallery. That exhibition will be larger and will consist of approximately 16 new works. The exhibition will open on April 27. More on that as the time grows nearer.

Again, I thank everyone who’s donated!!! Without your support I could not accomplish what I have. Thank you all so much!

Here are some photos from the gallery on Friday night, February 2:

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Thanks again to all those who’ve gotten on-board & contributed early! I appreciate your donation and support for this project. After one week, enough funding has been obtained for me to make a short trip to southern Arizona and to one site in New Mexico for photography. (Yes, I am a frugal, budget-traveler.) As much as I’d like to pack up the cameras & hit the road right now, weather is a bit of a concern so I’m going to hold off for at least a month or two. I don’t mind the cold, but unpredictable weather at this time of year could strand me somewhere & that’s no fun.

For now I am preparing for the Very First exhibition of the new Petroglyph artworks. I will be the ‘Guest Artist’ at The Village Gallery in Sedona, AZ for the months of February and March. As the ‘Guest’ I have a small space so I’ll only be exhibiting about six pieces. Since this is the first public exhibition I’ll be listening carefully for feedback and other cues on how the work is received. The opening reception is on Friday, February 2. I’ll let you know how it goes.

January 8, 2018
Dale O’Dell
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A BIG THANKS for the early donations that are a banging start to this campaign!!! We're off to a great start & I'll keep you posted with progress reports. Humble & heartfelt thanks to everyone who has so generously supported this project.
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$710 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 12 people in 1 month
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$100
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9 days ago
$20
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PanTerra Gallery
29 days ago
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