Colorado

Hotel Room, Denver

Hotel Room, Denver

Hotel Room, Denver

My friend George left for Japan today to teach with Arthur Meyerson. George makes images of solitude, and while I was in a hotel room in Denver this last weekend, I found myself empathizing with the emotions George channels in his photographs. I missed my children and my wife, and my compatriots in the photographic life. So I made an image of my own loneliness, inspired by George’s vision.

Water Grass, Colorado

Water Grass, Colorado

Water Grass, Colorado

While I was in New Mexico this summer teaching at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, I took a pilgrimage to the Andrew Smith Gallery, which deals solely in photography by the likes of the Westons, Ansel Adams, Edward Curtis and Lee Friedlander. Paul Caponigro is also there, and while he is most certainly not afforded the fame given to Ansel Adams, he would be very deserving of such. An original Caponigro has deep, midnight blacks punctuated by staccato bursts of near-white that leave the viewer unsettled and contemplative, yet placated by the natural beauty so overlooked within daily life. They are poems of sublime quietness.

So after I had left the landscape of mystery behind, moving north to Colorado, I found in my travels a small lake in the wilds of the Sawatch range that moved me much like a Caponigro.

Snow Field, Rocky Mountains

Snow Field, Rocky Mountains

Snow Field, Rocky Mountains

I don’t shoot things because they’re pretty. In fact, I often use “pretty” as a backdrop for troubling things, contrasting the sublime with the symbolic, rejecting simple aesthetic for a more introspective examination of my own relationship with the visual and modern world. Those “fusion” images, to borrow a term from a dear friend, are rare, and even more so those that grab me by the throat and shake me, demanding to be made.

The above image is one of those images for me. I had seen it from afar several times in the high country over the preceding days, but the high altitude light and cheery, puffy clouds had not illuminated the deep, brooding character of the composition. In looking at it, I felt bitter cold, profound isolation, and looming threat. On the third day, with churning storm clouds boiling overhead, and the freezing wind chewing at my face, the photograph finally revealed itself, and I made eight frames in response to its demands.

Gone for three weeks? Then back? Must have been shooting.

Town Hall, Gunnison County

Town Hall, Gunnison County

 

One may assume, for a photographer, a drought in the publishing of images means one of three things: 1) the photographer has finally reached the limit of his or her tolerance for despair and thus has given up the craft, opting rather to join the merchant marine; 2) the photographer has been in the field shooting; or 3) the photographer has been eaten by a bear.

I’m glad that No. 2 was the case for me.

I’m just back from teaching at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, where I had the pleasure of shooting with Susan Portnoy, the blogger behind The Insatiable Traveler, as well as my dear friend George Bumstead, a rising star in the photographic world. During that workshop, a bit of black and white humor emerged as the class began equating personalities with Ansel Adams’ and Fred Archer’s Zone System.

The class decided I am a Zone 3.

And so I returned to the Colorado backcountry after Santa Fe to work on new visions, fully embracing the darkness.

Aspens, Chaffee County

Aspens, Chaffee County

Aspens, Chaffee County

This stand of aspens and I have had conversations for most of my life, literally. From before moments I remember, I have passed by, passed through, and passed among these trees, and I feel their breath; there is a communion between us.

It is a relationship beyond words, but within the capability of image.

Dunes and Winter Storm, Alamosa County

Dunes and Storm, Alamosa County

Dunes and Storm, Alamosa County

I returned from the great American Southwest late yesterday, over 3,000 miles and 11 days in my pocket. My students and I held communion with some of the most spiritual and visually stunning places imaginable, such as Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Arches. It’s an excellent way to be reminded of what magical places sit at our doorstep here in the West.

The image above was one of the first I made: a winter storm beginning to clear over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes shivering beneath the cold and wind of the clouds.

Stump No. 2, Chaffee County

Stump No 2, Chaffee County

Stump No 2, Chaffee County

I leave for the Southwest in three days, and will pass through some placed I’ve known nearly all my life. Chaffee County is one, and this image is one that evokes deep nostalgia in me for the rush of a creek I long to hear.