May 10, 2017 – Service

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“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
~Susan Sontag

I’m not sure if this place still exists. Unfortunately, I don’t even remember where it is. It’s probably somewhere on South Stone Avenue, or in the warehouse district on South Park Avenue. I suppose I could look it up, but it really isn’t important. I just remember riding my bike through the wrecked car lots, the warehouses, over the railroad tracks by the lumber yards and steel yards and welding operations.

I try to image what these places must have looked like when they were brand new. I can’t seem to conjure the image in my head. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a salvage yard or a warehouse that looked clean and new, with fresh signage and rust-free construction. These places always look like they’ve been there forever – they always look old. Old and tired.

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May 01, 2017 – Vintage Tucson

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We’re beginning the new month with a theme of ‘interesting places,’ but this will be a loosely interpreted theme. I don’t always uphold the rules of the month entirely, but there certainly isn’t a a dearth of interesting, weathered, creative, or otherwise unique little corners of the world.

There are a lot of interesting old buildings in Tucson, as the desert city rose into greater prominence in the middle of the 20th Century. State highways were lined with service stations and motels, and American ‘car culture’ was alive and well. In some ways, Tucson was something of a stopover as people made their way to California, and that’s precisely where many of the old motor lodge neon signs come from along the Old Benson Highway.

This image, just south of Downtown Tucson, has recently been rehabilitated and the neon sign has been repaired and re-lit. I’m happy that the structure is being preserved, but I also have this strong affinity for these old, rusty, rickety buildings. I guess there’s something to appreciate on both sides of that coin, and there’s definitely something to appreciate when an old relic of a building is once again inhabited, rather than vacant and in danger of demolition.

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March 08, 2017 – Mexican Streetside

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For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of this small town. Somewhere about a hundred and fifty miles south of the port of entry in Naco Arizona (Naco Sonora). Cracked facades and faded paint jobs are common in these little towns. On the surface, these places appear inhospitable – and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories – but I’ve never had a negative experience in these places. People are friendly, the bodega owners are more than happy to take your money, and there’s always at least one fantastic restaurant or taco cart.

When traveling through the smaller villages in Mexico, there’s no “I just need to find a McDonalds” option. You pretty much have to trust the local food. Either that, or eat nothing but flamin’ hot cheetos and drink nothing but coca cola. And what’s the fun in that?

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February 09 – Industry, Steel, And Aaron Siskind

02-09 Industry post“Stone, steel, dominions pass,
Faith too, no wonder.
So leave alone the grass
That I am under.”

~A.E. Housman

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I’m not sure who said it first, but it always stuck with me: there is nothing as unnatural as a perfectly straight line.

There’s actually some truth to this. Straight lines don’t really just occur in nature. Every natural process with the potential to create a straight line is subject to other processes that disrupt it. Theoretically, trees would grow straight up were they not subjected to wind, rain, gravity, uneven soil. If the distribution of air, sunlight, nutrients, gravity, and other factors were perfectly even, we would have straight-edge trees. These elements aren’t even, have never been even, cannot be even, and so they produce randomly mutated fractal patterns.

Interestingly, we humans now we live in environments wholly based on the straight edge; I-beams and milled lumber, the foundations of our homes, our streetlamps, television screens, windowpanes. There is no greater example that I can think of that represents the unbroken human endeavor to conquer nature.

Today’s photograph is how I present the tension between humankind and the natural world – steel beams, the skeletal structure of a half-complete hotel in Albuquerque. I made this image when I was in my “Aaron Siskind” period. It was my second or third year of college, and I refused to photograph anything other than sub-par replicas of his patented abstract style. For those of you unfamiliar with Siskind, he was a prolific American photographer considered to be closely involved with the Abstract Expressionist movement, whose works focused primarily on the details of nature and architecture. At his height in the 1950s, his works were often described as blurring the line between painting and photography – something I’m personally interested in as an artist.

I was working as a research assistant at The Center for Creative photography on starvation-level wages under the Federal Work-Study Program. At the time it didn’t bother me; access to so many wonderful, historically significant photographic prints and photographer archives was plenty enough for me. Hell, I considered it an honor (and still do).

Then, recently, I found a faded, crinkled pay stub in an old suitcase. Boy was I being robbed.
But that’s a story for another day.

They say that emulation is the greatest form of flattery. I hope Mr. Siskind was looking down on my  from high with his notoriously crooked smile. I learned a lot trying to copy the masters, and I believe this is how many artists begin their journey. Not from square-one, but on the shoulders of giants, borrowing their voice while we struggle to find our own.

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