Terra Galleria Photography

New images: Clifton and Morenci, AZ


I’ve posted new images of Clifton and Morenci, Arizona. If you’ve never heard of those places before, neither did I. One thing that I love about road trips is the possibility to run into places out of the ordinary, although not considered tourist attractions.

Traveling from Arizona to Colorado along US Route 191, the Coronado Trail, as I drove through Clifton, I noticed a side street that had an odd look to it. I parked the car, and walked that street. This felt like a ghost town, with most storefront windows boarded up, some bearing political posters from the Clinton area. But at the same time, the place was not totally abandoned, as it was clear that a few people still live above the storefronts.

A bit further, I noticed an open-pit mine of epic scale. The layers of colors reminded me of some of the canyons of the Southwest. There was an awe-inspiring beauty to be found, which was in tension with the environment destruction at hand. I have always found it fascinating that man could manufacture such artificial landscapes so much faster than the forces of nature. The beauty and spiritual power of wild places is so compelling that it is easy to forget that they are isolated islands in a world radically transformed by man. That’s something I try to keep in the back of my mind when I photograph the natural landscapes for which I am more known.

I immediately thought of Edward Burtynsky’s work. One of the reasons I hadn’t sought those subjects actively is the bureaucratic difficulties involved in access. Although that particular area was thoroughly fenced, the company had provided one viewing area, complete with picnic tables, and even neatly made opening through the chain-link fence, apparently designed for cameras. Upon returning, I did a bit of research, and learned that the Morenci mine is the largest copper mine in North America, and one of the largest in the world.

View more images of Clifton and Morenci, Arizona


  1. Great photos QT. I instantly thought of Burtynsky as well when looking at these photos. Very good fortune to discover this place. The colors and scale are amazing. So odd to be excited yet saddened at the same time in seeing something like this.

  2. Beautiful pics! I really like the 3rd one.

  3. J Dunne says:

    Morenci is a different place alright. It is a Co. town owned by Freeport. FMI lets management drink & drive on and off Co. property. What a town!

  4. marie campbell says:

    I remember when Clifton had a social club.My grandpa ( Richard Campbell)would always go down to open the club up.My grandpa and grandma lived on the mountain across from the old jail.The second from the top was their house

  5. marie campbell says:

    Does anyone remember rileys drug store.We would save our money to buy comic books.

  6. Eric green says:

    I have done work in this mine as a contractor and it never stopped to amaze me. From the size and magnitude of the scale of the operation.
    The untold effort to minamize damage to the environment and the vast effort to the safety of the workers. I too am from a small town from the east coast, I know the look of an old town from the old steel and oil days. Although I find it weird that this town looks this way with production still active.
    The one thing that I could never get my mind around was the people in the local community. People are not friendly at all, to say the least. Wether it is through ignorance or poverty people seem to reject the idea of the melting pot that made this country so great. Outsiders are treated as if they are there to preform acts of evil. I speculate this the due to the vast numbers of uneducated population and the average family income being just over $41,000 a year “per US cencus for 2010”.

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