Another element of photography that draws me back again and again is the notion of a visual statement of culture; something that when placed within the careful composition elevates the image from an essay on Moholy-Nagy’s influence to something even more. It becomes a place, something tangible, something terrestrial. It gains life while reflecting it.
Movement and conflict for the eye have always been an obsession for me. How does an image allow the eye to enter, to move, to stop and contemplate? I was strongly influenced in this long ago by the work of David Plowden (click the link to see), and ever since have sought to visually examine the ways in which we exercise our vision.
I was winded, feeling the altitude–uncharacteristically–of the strenuous hike, but it could also have been the surroundings that were stealing my breath. Dead trees littered the ground amidst others still standing as upright mausoleums, their white and cement-hard skeletons tactile adventures as my fingers gently moved across their bases. But as I looked to the east in a boulder-strewn slope, a handful of trees unlike any other on this earth, a species most anyone will be unlikely ever to see in person, held stubbornly against time and weather as they have for a millennia.
Elated, I scrambled up the rockfall for several hundred feet to the top of the slope, and the aura of this tree–this tree!–that was a sapling long before the First Crusade, perhaps even as the Roman Empire stood united, enveloped me and overwhelmed my senses, for I knew I was in the presence of an ancient.
Boots are landscapes unto themselves, if only we take the time to look.
About a week ago, another member on JPG Magazine commented on my “Dunes, Alamosa County” image: “Brett Weston?” Needless to say, I was honored to have someone make the connection (although I am smart enough to know I’m not even close to that unbelievable talent–just look at his work in the Brett Weston Archive), and it got me thinking about how to use density in different ways to add mystery. This shot of a pair of Tony Lama boots is one of those new explorations.
Did I nearly get in a car wreck when I saw this image by the side of the road?
I have a jones for documentary portraits; there’s just something in the eyes with good light and the spontaneous moments of people living their lives and their expressions and…well, you get the point. Everywhere I go, whether it be rodeos, brandings, family outings, or town gatherings, I’m looking for a classic face in the crowd.
And occasionally, I find one.
Oh, June. A rodeo legend unto herself.
June is in her 70s, and still competes–no, not just competes, but is competitive–in the Mid-States Rodeo Association. As of this writing, she’s in first place with $7,386.73 in winnings. And counting.
My sister, who is also very competitive and successful in rodeo (so far this year, she’s in 16th place), thinks June is amazing, and this is no fluke of opinion.
So in the 100-degree heat of the O’Neill rodeo in July, June prepared to compete in the barrels, and I took the opportunity to capture the hands of an icon.
I would adopt the entire Meidell family if I could; after all, my book was as much about these five people as any others. Each member of the family is a class act, and photogenic in the extreme (though Tricia and Eric would argue that point). What’s more, all of the Meidells are, in the words of a man Eric once met in Washington, D.C., “Real Cowboys.” Those of us lucky enough to grow up with this life in the Great Plains often forget the legend into which we are born, and the Meidells have earned the hype. Need proof? Look no further than one of several saddles Tricia has won in rodeos.
The Meidells are indeed “real.”
One can’t photograph in the American Southwest without coming under the influence of Georgia O’Keeffe. Spend time with her paintings, her locations, her philosophy, and one can begin to fathom the subtle and complex beauty of the natural world, and thus the puzzle of the above image: If you wish to understand its careful and intricate composition, you must first examine the work of O’Keeffe.
And the flower that is the picture will blossom.