rowan james – trespassers will be shot

Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls

Rowan James

Trespassers Will Be Shot

play this essay


This body of work is a photographic survey of the American landscape. It weds traditional documentary photography and my own inclination toward cinematic, or dreamlike, imagery. The project was inspired by years of traveling throughout the country, particularly in the southern United States.

These photographs were shot spontaneously. They demonstrate an intuitive appraisal of their subject matter. While the narrative structure of this work is intentionally abstract, it also presents themes that steadily develop as the series unfolds.



Rowan James is a photographer currently residing in Tennessee. He received a B. A. from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and an M. A. in Photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design. His new body of work is a meditation on the American landscape.

Rowan’s photographs have been exhibited throughout the United States including San Francisco, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York.


57 Responses to “rowan james – trespassers will be shot”

  • sidney:

    thanks, i guess ;))>.

    as i’ve ‘written’ many times before, at Burn, every time i ‘write’ here (a comment) it is just that, a comment, written without editing as if i’m talking out loud, talking with the author (and maybe that is the problem, for both the length and overindulgence)…i don’t edit, or re-write but simply type direclty into the comment box after viewing the work….i always see the comments (including my own) as simply a part of the conversation, albeit often filled with both purple and sanctimonious prose, because i ‘write’ comments here the way i speak, or rathe, i riff…

    as a writer who has been published in the non-web world, i am also horrified when i re-read something i’ve written here, but i let it go…this is not a story, an essay, a book, etc…i’ve published all those things, by the way, and as i explained before to you, i don’t write here as if a literary blog, rather a place where thoughts come pouring out……if you wish to see my writing and critique that, fair enough:

    please begin with the piece i wrote for BURN01…a section of which, btw, was nominated for the CBC Literary poetry award…and that piece i worked on for a while…

    but if necessary, i can send you a list of publications. i don’t strain over and re-write/edit a response first as text on Word and then copy/paste it here. all the poverity and failure of my comments, in terms of writing, are really about spitting out words….while you correctly judge its worth as prose, you misjudge the nature and intent..

    if i were to write my responses here, i’d never write, because i actually spend a long time on those bits of prose i do publish and by then, we’d be onto a different photographer, etc…
    but fair enough, if Loomings is published, critique the statement.


  • Interesting, Michael – as it was in your words that I thought I picked up a bit of the air of superiority – not to mention the mocking tone that your words carried.

    For perspective, my entire career has pretty much unfolded among hunting people… completely modern people, but hunting people. People who put up to 80 percent of the protein they eat on their table with gun, net, and harpoon; people who must constantly contend with those from the larger world who refuse to understand and who would like to bring an end to their hunting way of life. Yet, the folks from the larger world who would put an end to their world would themselves cease to exist if somewhere, everyday, someone was not killing an animal on their behalf.

    Oftentimes, when I am sitting in an airport somewhere, or in a restaurant, I will hear people bring up the folks among whom I work and speak of them in mocking tones, and it outrages me because many of those same folks would literally die if left alone to fend for themselves in the world of the people whom they mock. They just wouldn’t be knowledgable enough, resourceful enough, or tough enough to cope with the environment.

    Your first words kind of reminded me of that. Perhaps I misread your intent a bit.

    I should make it clear that in my above comments I do mean to lump everyone from the outside world into the above categories. No, to one degree or another, I think most people do not feel that way and do appreciate that there are others who still live this way. But those who do feel this way can sure cause pain and heartache.

    Now, like Sidney, I am laboring under a tight deadline. I come here and type out rambling comments to momentarily escape the pressure of that deadline, but, somehow, the pressure only grows and gets worse. I really must discipline myself, and quit doing this.

    One short paragraph from me a day – that would be enough to keep the connection. I love the Burn connection, and that includes with you, Michael. I do not want to lose that connection. But I’ve got to stop this rambling. Too much to do – he argues as he rambles on.

  • Interesting indeed, Bill.

    We might be talking past each other here. I appreciate your attempt to clarify, so now let me reciprocate.

    I’m surprised to say the least that you thought my first comment was somehow mocking hunters or rural folks in any way. I thought it was pretty clear I was saying that “weird” was relative. That everyone has their comfort level and that that comfort level is not better or worse than anybody else. I didn’t read anything in these comments that warranted your remark. (and maybe I read too much into that) The use of the word weird was fairly benign in my opinion. And my comment about hunter/gatherers was indeed snark. (little smiley face and everything. sorry if it didn’t come across that way)

    Lastly, as the photo I posted in “blowin’ in the wind” aisle would suggest, I too am personally well acquainted with the folks I think you are trying to defend. My family and friends. I am also well in touch with people unlike them and with rare exception never have heard (nor would tolerate) them mocking the other. (that goes both ways.)

    Anyway, thanks for clarifying and hope all is cool. Much respect.

    (Also, apologies to Rowan for this little diversion.)

  • It is all good, Michael. I appreciate it. And I had missed your “field dressing” photo before, so I went back and found it. Definite eyeball kick and an honest, true statement, well stated. My search for that also lead me to your Johnny Cash “Good night Irene” link. I try to avoid going to Youtube links because they take too much time, but now I went. Couldn’t pass up on Johnny Cash. Thought I would listen to a bar or two… but once started could not click away. Then I saw the nearby link to the Leadbelly version, so I had to click there, too.

    So you provided me with some good listening entertainment.

    Now I really must get back to work. No more posts for me today.

    Likewise: much respect.

  • sidney:

    soul searching afternoon, talk with mrs. b after rereading your critique……you’ve hit the nail on the head, my writing from now on must be reserved for writing, not for commenting, …time, as dima said to me in SC, for silence…you guys have at…

    for me, better to help BURN financially and focus on my photowork and writing rather than stoking over extemperaneous typed up words, especially when received as such….

    thanks for the insight

    all the best

  • PICTURE 8 is stunning, other nice pictures in there but i dont understand the overall essay…i see more and more a trend of personal essays that sometimes are hard to understand what the photog wants to express. its like they grab a bunch of bizarre good pictures and put them together. is it that photographers shoot more from the heart or gut now? or are they just trying to show their best images…? or even confuse us with their mystery? i really dont know, sometimes i even think that im not visually intelligent because i cant understand the story behind some essays.

  • irinawerning…

    I hope you’re wrong about your misgivings on grabbing a bunch of bizarre good photos and creating an essay as my latest endeavour is to somehow create an essay for Burn by doing exactly this. So I head out everyday and let fate either smile or frown at me.

Leave a Reply

You must login to post a comment.