book + traveling museum exhibition

Into the Great White Sands

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Adventuring into the surreal landscape of White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico for many years, Craig Varjabedian became inspired by the region’s luminous, ever-changing dunes of sand to capture the remarkable images in this body of work entitled Into the Great White Sands. The artist skillfully chronicles his immersion into this breathtakingly vast and strikingly intimate world, and reveals the secret stories of this numinous place through emotionally evocative photographs. Varjabedian has suspended in time for the viewer - the many magical moments he experienced while chronicling the unique White Sands landscape.

White Sands National Monument is located in a remote area of the  southwestern United States and lies beneath the San Andres mountain range of southern New Mexico in the arid Tularosa Basin.  It is a place of rippling dunes made of pure white gypsum. This solitary land, undulating and ever-changing since archaic times.  The gypsum dunes are ancient, alive, and immortal. Silently and slowly transforming the landscape—the rain and snowmelt dissolve the gypsum crystals like sugar. Warming rays from the desert sun then evaporate this liquid solution, producing tons of fine alabaster sand that are swept silently by the whispering winds in a cycle of rebirth and metamorphosis. The snow white dunes shift imperceptibly—silently receding and emerging in timeless tranquility.

The ‘Sands’ are breathtakingly vast and seemingly barren, yet on a more intimate scale, the landscape reveals an ecology teaming with life which flourishes throughout the dunes. Plants like the soaptree yucca—whose spring bloom each year is a visual celebration along with the dessert verbena that dazzles against the dessert with vibrant pink in sharp contrast to the luminous pale landscape of sand.   Dunes, rolling in waves for miles to the mountainous horizon, create a spiritual atmosphere hypnotizing visitors with Zen-like visual purity. Far from monochromatic, the sand's pale palette reflects a vibrant world of color, with spectacular sunrises and unbelievable sunsets painted in saturated colors exclusive to the brush of nature.

You are invited on a visual expedition to this unique primordial landscape through the lens of master photographer Craig Varjabedian and to experience these images—powerful moments captured forever by the artist of the magnificent, ever-changing White Sands National Monument. His book of photographs, Into the Great White Sands—published by the University of New Mexico Press, has garnered much praise and is the 2018 recipient of a prestigious New Mexico/Arizona Book Award.

View White Sands Photographs on this site


Places tell their own stories. They hold memories and are spaces of geologic beauty, echoing the laughter of a child, visions of wonder, and accumulated histories. In Craig Varjabedian’s photographs of White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico, these unique stories of heritage, habitat, and the natural world unfold, transporting you to an inspiring, luminous landscape beyond your imagination.

Step into the images and behold the light, the splendor, and discover the visual as you journey through the exhibition of fifty color images. Varjabedian’s gifted eye, technical expertise, and years of work on this project combine to create a particularly dynamic, haunting, and unforgettable array of photographs capturing the many moods of White Sands. Experience this fragile landscape of undulating dunes of white gypsum sand through the seasons. Witness and learn the unique history of the park from prehistoric times to the atomic age and its collaborative relationship with the White Sands Missile Range and Holoman Air Force Base. Meet former and current inhabitants, including plants, rocks, animals and park visitors in this eloquent exhibition and accompanying fine art monograph with interpretive essays published by University of New Mexico Press. Mystery, renewal, history, and adventure await the viewer.

A fifty photograph traveling photograph exhibition is available. Please contact our studio for additional information.


  • Afterimage Photograph Gallery — February 9 through April 9, 2019

  • Museum of the Southwest — November 9, 2018 through January 27, 2019


On Landscape Magazine Interview: Into the Great White Sands (pdf)
Museum of the Southwest exhibition review in Glasstire (pdf)
Albuquerque Journal on Into the Great White Sands book (pdf)
Landscape Photography Magazine: Into the Great White Sands book review (pdf)
Press Release for the Book (pdf)