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Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

I was visiting my close friend George Nobechi in Tucson, Arizona, and he took me to Bisbee, Arizona. He said I’d like it.

Yup.

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This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil

Life’s bittersweet underbelly revealed itself for me this last year, making 2015 one which I’ll never forget. As written in some previous posts, I’ve struggled trying to identify, to understand, then to express the emotions 2015 has left with me; as artists, we don’t run from the pain, we embrace it and use it.

The Longing of Abandonment

The Longing of Abandonment

The Longing of Abandonment

I made a needed trip to Texas about a month ago, and had some needed time with some of my besties in the whole world: George, Melinda, Liz and Keira. But photographically, I’m currently in the creative wilderness, and the trip gave me an opportunity to make an image that expresses that sense of wandering.

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.

Chairs, Ansley

Chairs, Ansley

Chairs, Ansley

I traveled the Junk Jaunt trail this last weekend, following locations that sold everything from antiques to—no kidding—secondhand underwear. Yuck.

Luckily, I was only interested in photographs, and at a warehouse in Ansley, Nebraska, my students and I found a back room populated with chairs. The owner, Jim, is a retired illustrator with a penchant for three-dimensional storage art, it would seem.

I think he certainly had an eye for creating photo opportunities.

Moth and Window, Northern New Mexico

 

Moth and Window

Moth and Window

Some people shoot pretty things like landscapes; I find Sylvia Plath and Ezra Pound in the nooks and crannies of the places I visit. And here was just such a poem, a Plath tucked away in the forgotten recesses of the desert air. Steiglitz called his small images “Equivalents,” for they were the visual equal of his emotional response to a scene. Indeed such a thing happened here for me, but as Andrew Southam has said of me, I live in a poet’s body.

Mud-Painted Car (For Sam Abell)

For Sam Abell

For Sam Abell

In his first Geographic story, Sam Abell made a photograph of his mud-splattered car as a response to the inspiration of Christopher Pratt, one of Canada’s most important modern artists. In the same spirit, while in the rain-soaked, mud-sodden region of eastern Wyoming in 2015, resulting in much the same pattern on my car, I made a photo as a tribute to Sam Abell’s importance to modern photography.

 

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.

It’s been busy, so I’ve been away…but here’s a new photo to compensate.

Woman Traveler, Omaha

Airline Traveler, Omaha

It’s a tough thing, creativity. It comes and goes, and regardless of projects extant, oftentimes creativity is, as artist Chuck Close so eloquently said, difficult and inconsequential much of the time: “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” So, I’ve been out sweating. Being inspired? Well, that too.