In this book, photographer Steven B. Smith documents the architecture and inhabitants of Colorado City, Arizona, which was owned by the FLDS, a polygamist Mormon sect, until 2007. Colorado City opens with a short essay by Smith about the city’s troubling history and unique architecture. Smith is known for his work on the encroachment of suburbia onto Western landscapes.
Situated on the border of Arizona and Utah, Colorado City makes a striking photographic subject, with houses standing in the shadow of red rock formations, surrounded by sagebrush. Colorado City’s homes were often built piece by piece, expanded as men took on wives through arranged polygamist marriages. Many of these homes remain unfinished in an attempt to avoid paying property tax. Smith’s framing of these houses captures these odd houses at the same time as it captures the beautiful and foreboding landscape surrounding the city.
Smith’s photographs also capture the city’s residents—women dressed in long, handmade dresses, a young man driving a truck, gazing suspiciously into the camera. In one photograph, a group of children peek at Smith over a tall privacy fence, turning their cellphone cameras back at the photographer. There are also several photos of the town’s inhabitants wading in water.
Smith’s Colorado City is a deeply human depiction of a community whose story has been sensationalized to the point of caricature, its inhabitants treated as a zany novelty rather than real people who have been abused by those wielding power in the church hierarchy.