The experience of the abandoned Andean city of cyclopean stone had the force of a revelation for Zimmerman. She visited Machu Picchu in 1987, one of a series of ancient sites she has seen, photographed, drawn, and been inspired by. Ascending to its heights, she recognized that it embodied for her all the qualities of a consecrated space: a place where nature and human civilization, as expressed in landscape and architecture, are inseparably intertwined; a place where obdurate stone resounds both with the countless ages of earth and with the dimmest memories of man; a place that purifies and gives meaning to our lives, even as it iterates our mortality.
Zimmerman has been under the spell of ancient sites since at least 1977, when she visited several archaic cave temples in India. It was at Ellora, - an extraordinary complex of sixth and seventh century rock-cut shrines, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain – that she realized she wanted to work in stone: seeing the chambers carved out of solid rock, deep in the side of a mountain, she was impressed by the devotional quality of the space. She responded to the antiquity of the stone and to the magnitude of the geological processes that shaped it, as well as to the human vision that transformed it. This confirmed in her an interest in earth history, acquired in part from a geologist brother; it also made her want to work outdoors and to address an ageless human need for spiritually regenerative places.
Zimmerman’s photography should be seen as something related to but discrete from her landscape projects. She does on occasion use her photographs for informational purposes, to record some aspect of a site she might later want to study. But she clearly has ambitions for these photographs that go beyond information: she works with large-format Pentax camera, and composes every shot with care and deliberation. The resulting black and white images don’t merely convey her admiration for her subjects: in another medium, they suggest again the way our jaded modern imaginations might still be humbled before the accomplishments of the ancients. They are works of deceptive simplicity and quiet hope: hope that we might learn to live with greater sensitivity to the ecological and spiritual dimensions of our environment.
-John Beardsley, 1991