Some don’t make it back. I smelled this poor little guy before I saw him. Coyotes and cars don’t play well. I was climbing slowly, rising sun in my face when the whiff of death became apparent. Only the sound of my breathing as I stopped to make this little tribute.
The road continued to climb for several miles then topped out with a view of a small mountain village. The road turned to dirt and the mobile had no signal. Keep pedaling. A low road along a dried up river but the soil was damp with recent rains, a small column of dirt spraying up from the front wheel. Switchbacks began and were loose, dry and laden with washboard. Up and up and up. Small sprocket, looking down between my legs at the rear ring, never wanting to surrender to the low gear. A photo, ya, that’s it. Reason to stop.
At roads end was a gate blocking my movement, but oh what a gate it was. It is claimed that 75% of all Fortune 500 CEO’s have property in or near Santa Fe, and this baby looked like one such compound. Every trip out here I find a new paradise..owned by someone else.
There was no choice but to retrace my step. Miles of downhill back to Two Trails and then I drop south into the high desert. Miles of downhill tarmac, nice shoulder, no shoulder, glass, debris, etc. And then single track along the rails all the way back to town. The trails changes to improved trail and I realize I’d ridden five difference surfaces on this little gem. Right at forty, perfect, solitary miles. RIP Mr.Coyote
“Nature always wins,” she said.
“I wrote that in my journal yesterday,” I said. “Those exact words.”
This is a place worth getting involved with. There is meaning to life here. Good, bad, beautiful, ugly, all of it. The weather has meaning as well. Water means a tremendous amount, even if the rest of the country doesn’t seem to notice the lack of life’s fluid in the Southwest
June is known for hot and windy not hail and gully-washing downpours, but here it was, for the taking. A thirteen-hour drive complete, fatigue overwhelming me, my soul and every trace of my DNA. And then came this, like a freight train of ice and wind. I had to record it. Had to.
In the grand scheme this was a kiss from a baby. Down south they got baseball size gifts wrapped in seventy mile per hour wind. Nature here likes to remind, and it’s comforting to know your place in the world. Concrete has yet to consume here, and I hope it never does. This place is still wild and we are just visitors.
I just ordered this thing and received it in less than one week. The doorbell rang and I looked through the glass to see yet another Blurbish box, the 157th time this has happened to be exact. I actually didn’t know what it was because I had only ordered the magazine a few days ago and didn’t think that could possibly be enough time. Apparently it is. BOOM, it’s here. I did one of these months ago, a small one, 20-pages, which I’ve been using in the field. This last trip, which was mostly wasted replacing the entire sewer line at my house, I used the magazine while working just outside of Santa Fe. The response to having the magazine was as good as you could get. In fact, it was what prompted me to do this version which is 80-pages and has more of the full story of why I’m out doing what I’m doing.
Making a publication like this, and then showing it in the field, is evidence you are not messing around. In fact, after I showed the previous version, the person I showed it to referenced the magazine later the same day and then again a few days later. I think it also had a lot to do with this person saying “You guys are okay,” and “I think you have good intentions with what you are doing,” and in that neck of the woods trust is essential to do any kind of photographic business. As for making a tool like this I don’t over think the matter. I see a need and I just go. So far this methodology has worked out pretty darn well, both commercially and now entirely and joyfully on my own.
As with many of the things I create these days, I didn’t have a lot of time to obsess about the meaning or particulars. Even with limited time the creation of this tool forced me to spend focused energy in regard to editing and sequencing. This is NEVER a bad thing even when after doing so you realize how LITTLE good work you actually have. Sob, sob. I think it has been four years and counting on this project, but a very, very light part-time at best. Doing this particular kind of work you realize the world isn’t a small place at all. You realize that even one state, in one country, on one continent would take a lifetime to really get to see and understand.
Full admission here…looking at this magazine makes me FEEL really good. It FEELS great to find a bit of clarity in the photographic clutter of life. I carry this thing in my bag and hope I can show it to others. It makes me think about what I’m doing and how the people IN the photos would respond to this. How would they feel? What does it mean to be included? What will it mean to those who have yet to see it? Having this magazine also makes me feel like there are A LOT of photographers in the world who could do amazing things with this tool. The magazine represents a very special place in the heart of generations of photographers. We all know the current state of the editorial world, so when you think about doing a magazine on your own, and running work the way it was intended to be seen, you realize just how powerful a tool like this can be. If I was a better designer I would love to create a collaborative, quarterly publication showcasing good photography with enough real estate to allow the work to shine.
“You know this story of yours might be a homecoming.”
This idea was presenting to me by a friend and fellow photographer after we overlapped on our current projects. My current project IS a homecoming, and each and every time I bring my camera to eye I can sense and sometimes feel the influence of my father. He’s out there somewhere. Sometimes he plays tricks on me. (The hummingbird thing..I know that was you padre.)
The short of it is I miss the old man. Dad was the reason we first went to Wyoming all those years ago. The cross country drive with siblings and a car sick dog. The silence, the wind, the smell of sage after a rain. Like an infection, that place put the hooks in me and never let go, and it’s because he put me there in the first place. I set my pants on fire with a branding iron because of him. I got trampled by cows because of him. I got stepped on, scraped off, bucked off and knocked over by horses because of him. I got my fingers caught in the fence because of him. I broke beaver dams because of him. I picked up nails because of him. I learned to shoot, hunt and fish because of him.
Wyoming was true open space and once you have it in your bloodstream there is no antidote available. You have to live with the knowledge of what it’s like. The overwhelming din of absolute silence and isolation. The elements, those you need to mind or they will erase you from this place, and the landscape that reminds you that you are one step away from nowhere. I think about this place on a daily basis. I don’t fully understand it, not sure I ever will, but now I have New Mexico and this place is rapidly filling a mile wide void in my mental state. I need this place more than I want it, if that’s possible. Dust and bones, history and the knowledge that out there, around the next bend or over the next ridge line, is the unknown I’m stalking like the ghost of a bygone time.
The sound of leather soled Western boots on the dry ground. The flash of lightning and simultaneous pounding of the accompanying thunder. Hail so thick it looked like snow. Watching game move through that first crack of morning light, foreleg lifted but not yet placed, nostrils exhaling the steam of a heart driven combustion engine, all senses on high-alert. It was all too good to believe. Of course I had no pressure on me, it wasn’t my ranch. It belonged to him, and his ranch partner who is equally guilty in this crime of my exposure to the West.
Juan wasn’t my father but it sure felt like he was, and this was a good thing. Juan wasn’t from the West, he was Cuban, but as they say he got west as fast as he could. The real deal cowboy. Not the rodeo type or the owner of a 4×4 with a lift kit, he was right off the pages of what you think you know about the West. I saw him do a lot of things you probably wouldn’t believe, so I’m not going to waste your time with trying to explain them to you now. He had a touch of the wild in him, probably still does. I hid his cigarettes and he ran me down and made me give them up. He made me do everything I was afraid to do. He taught me an extreme range of words I wasn’t supposed to repeat. He bought me a hamburger after I started crying when I slammed my head into the passenger side window on the way home from a trip to Ft. Collins to pick up tractor parts. He rescued my fingers from the fence. He left me in the middle of nowhere with a notepad and my first “assignment” to track the cows being bred by the lucky bull in front of me. It was perfect.
There was also another guilty party. Yep, mom was there too. She taught me a lot including what a Pentax K1000 and Haliburton case looked like. That case went everywhere we went, just like the bag I carry today. From truck to truck it would be stuck behind the bench seat as we roamed the pastures or mountainsides coming out from time to time to make these pictures you see here. Back then what she did was considered not extreme but dedicated. Like a slow trickle from an irrigation pipe, it might not seem like a lot but when all is said and done a photographic archive exists and the thirst of a field is satisfied.
I’m not sure where I go from here. I really don’t know. All I know is I can’t run from the demon forever. At some point the haunting of the West will come calling and I will need to go and pay whatever respect is required. It might be nothing. It might be everything. Until that time I’ll continue to drift. And when I’m out there amid whatever it is that brushes against me, I’ll know that the old man is there too, right where he should be.
Dedicated to BOJ
Thanks for putting me there.
I’ve done it again. I’ve spawned another publication. This particular item from a brief encounter with White Sands National Monument, which is one tiny piece of my New Mexico opus. I can’t really call this a magazine, but I can call it a magazine format, which it is.
There was some confusion about this, but what I do is open InDesign and under the file menu you will see “Book Creator.” This allows you to punch in relevant information about specifics and then the plugin generates your files automatically, complete with bleed and trim lines. In short, if it works for me then it HAS to work for you. My design skills are puny, something I acknowledge up front to set the appropriate expectation levels.
Am I selling this little beast? No. Am I professing it’s beauty? Only it’s size, shape and material. Am I claiming it makes a profound statement? No. Am I claiming it forced me to edit my day’s take? Yes. Did creating this force me to think critically and make decisions? Yes. Am I going to make more? What do you think?
Over the past two weeks I’ve created at least three magazines, several books, a few letters and an assortment of handmade objects, both from the road and from here at home. It’s been a strangely productive time, but the pull of the unknown is creeping into my subconscious once again, which can only mean one thing. I must make more images. The monkey on my back is undeniable, insatiable and can’t be reasoned with.