Is it odd that I find human and poetic forms in all manner of natural occurrences? I hope not. Or maybe I do.
It’s been a long winter. I’ve been sick—so has my family—and the extended, dry cold weather hasn’t helped. Spring is hinting at its return, and with it comes my favorite season: branding. I’ve already set up one shoot at the Adams ranch, a sprawling, treeless expanse in the Sandhills, and I’m working on several others for late May. There simply isn’t much that is more photogenic than real working hands and horses, in my book, and the above image from the Pyle / Meidell branding in 2013 is a reminder of the allure of spring in the West.
The Rural Impressions show opens this Friday at the Graham Gallery in Hastings, with a public reception from 6-9 pm on Saturday. Featuring 40 images from different series of work over the last five years that examine the complex relationships between the rural West and the land itself, including the image above, the show is meant to inspire viewers to contemplate the myriad forces at work in the rural Great Plains and American West.
My next solo show, Rural Impressions: Images of the American West, opens closer to home than usual, since it’s at the Graham Gallery in Hastings, Nebraska. It’s a collection of more than 40 images from different series of work over the last five years that examine the complex relationships between the rural West and the land itself. The reception is 6-9 p.m. on April 5, so if you feel like buying a plane ticket or hopping in the car, I’ll be happy to offer you a handshake, hors d’oeuvres, and a drink.
The show will include a number of my pieces from Rural Rodeos, such as the one above, a young man at the Eddyville Rodeo who already displayed the price of entry for the life of a cowhand.
It was a cold day in January, but the light in Santa Fe was warm. I wandered the Plaza and the surrounding streets looking for subtle still life photographs, and found one that warmed my heart just as much as did the light itself.
I led a group of students on a photo trip in January to the Southwest, and our last stop was Moab. On a scouting excursion one morning, one of the students (an emerging capable photographer in her own right) asked why I spent so much time with trees, since “they all seemed so alike.”
They’re not, I told her. Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, John Shaw and Brett Weston–to name just a few–spent time with trees. They have a spirit, I said, and to find the personality and the essence of a tree means taking time to talk with it. She proceeded to focus a lot more on trees for the duration of the trip, and by the end, admitted she had a new respect for the allure of trees.
My mother tells a story that goes something like this: When I was 15, I was engrossed in a typical pastime at my grandmother’s house–looking at pictures in old copies of National Geographic. I ran upstairs, holding out a picture of two fishermen in Newfoundland, saying, “This is what I want to do!” The picture was by Sam Abell, who years later in an unbelievable turn of fate became my friend, mentor, and classroom colleague. No words can ever express the honor and joy I’ve experienced through working with Sam.
Similarly, I used to look at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops catalogue, awestruck by the photographers who had earned places there as instructors. How amazing, I thought, to take a class in Santa Fe from such people. Had you told me then that I would teach there instead, I’d have laughed in disbelief.
But no more.
The coming summer marks the first (and hopefully not last) course I will teach at the Workshops, The American West: Crafting Fine Digital Prints, from June 30-July 4. I’m eternally grateful to Reid Callanan, the SFPW director, for the opportunity, and I hope to see many of you in the digital lab this summer!
If you haven’t been to White Sands, you’re missing out on a photographic paradise. The contrast of deep blue skies in evening, coupled with the white of the gypsum-powder sands and their abstract textures are a black and white paradise. Is it any wonder Brett Weston and Ansel Adams (among many others) have been entranced?
It had been a magical evening: Clouds on the horizon had allowed a perfect rosy-pink light to illuminate Mesa Arch, while snow on the distant Lasal Mountains had created just the right amount of contrast.
And then a nearly-full moon rose on the horizon, wispy clouds moved through the frame, and the stars came out.
A magical evening, indeed.
I’ve always been interested in the textures of yucca. Some call it “soap weed,” but I have another name for the plant: beautiful.