Paperback, 7.5 x 10.25 in. / 144 pgs / 140 color.


CATALOG: FALL 2014 p. 83   

ISBN 9780989785914 TRADE
LIST PRICE: $32.50 CDN $40.00

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Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest

Published by The Ice Plant
Edited by Ryan Thompson, Phil Orr. Photographs by Ryan Thompson.

Featured image is reproduced from <I>Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Toward a Geologic Conscience</I>.The Petrified Forest National Park in Northeast Arizona protects one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Despite stern warnings, visitors remove several tons of petrified wood from the park each year, often returning these rocks by mail (sometimes years later), accompanied by a "conscience letter." These letters often include stories of misfortune attributed directly to their theft: car troubles, cats with cancer, deaths of family members, etc. Some writers hope that by returning these stolen rocks, good fortune will return to their lives, while others simply apologize or ask forgiveness. "They are beautiful," reads one letter, "but I can't enjoy them. They weigh like a ton of bricks on my conscience. Sorry…." Bad Luck, Hot Rocks documents this ongoing phenomenon, combining a series of original photographs of these otherworldly "bad luck rocks" with facsimiles of intimate, oddly entertaining letters from the park's archives.

Featured image is reproduced from Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Toward a Geologic Conscience.


Los Angeles Times

David L Ulin

Indeed, if “Bad Luck, Hot Rocks” has any anything to tell us, it is that in sharing these small, seemingly insignificant confidences, we find comfort, consolation, if not quite redemption that they are, as they have always been, the currency of our living, for good or ill.

The New Yorker

Nicola Twilley

“Bad Luck, Hot Rocks” is part of Thompson’s exploration of that relationship, in particular the significance that people attach to geologic oddities. In earlier projects, he has documented “meteorwrongs,” rocks initially identified as meteorites but later demoted to terrestrial status; glacial erratics, boulders left behind in foreign landscapes by melting ice; and an occult belief system built by a former I.B.M. research scientist around the geometries of quartz crystals. These peculiar interactions of man and mineral speak, Thompson believes, to the breakdown of human logic in the face of geologic time and space.

The Improbable

Jenn Witte

In Bad Luck, Hot Rocks, these letters are paired side-by-side with photographs of rocks from the “conscience pile” (returned rocks cannot be scattered back into the forest and are instead collected in a pile along a service road). The reader of these letters sits on the priest’s side of a confessional booth—a non-denominational one, sanctioned by the Parks Service. This offers a distinct and fascinating perspective: throw your problems next to something 200 million years old, step back, and take a look. As you read these painstakingly handwritten confessions, it is possible to see the thieves’ cancers and kidney stones in beautiful lumps of rock, trace broken marriages along cracks that were once tree rings, and feel something hard for fleeting moments…a funny thing. This book is timeless, as deep or as shallow as you want it to be.


Allison Meier

The fossilized remains of an ancient forest, dazzling with glints of opal and amethyst, have tempted many a visitor to Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. Some who pocketed a rock were later guilt-stricken into sending them back, and some even included letters of lamentation and curses. Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest, published in November by the Ice Plant, is a photography and archive project by artists Ryan Thompson and Phil Orr to document these stolen fossils and their woeful apologies.

“They are beautiful, but I can’t enjoy them — they weigh like a ton of bricks on my conscience,” one reads. “I can assure you that I have been smitten of conscience since I returned home and instead of pleasant memories of your park, I feel guilty,” wails another. Thompson first discovered these mea culpas during a visit to the park’s Rainbow Forest Museum in 2011, where a few of the “conscience letters” were on display. On further investigation, he found they were just a few from an archive of over 1,200 going back to 1934. The next year, he returned with Orr to photograph them in a collaborative project that’s now the Bad Luck, Hot Rocks book.

Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest

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Temporarily out of stock pending additional inventory.

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Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest

Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified ForestIn celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the creation of America's National Park Service, we present these spreads from staff favorite Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest. Featuring photographs of rocks returned to the park alongside the letters of regret that accompanied them, this volume is impossible to put down. Notes like, "This rock was taken without knowledge of the curse. Sorry," and "Found this in my Room, you can Have it back. It's bad luck I got Busted the other night," are typical, alluding to the legend that stealing rocks from the Petrified Forest brings bad luck. "I am at your mercy," reads a portion of the note at top, "for when I did it I knew there was a fine but like I say I was not a christian and if you think I should pay a fine or go to prison I am at your mercy and you have my address." continue to blog


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