April 25, 2017 – Longitude (industrial textures)

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“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
~Elliott Erwitt

I’m not sure if I really have much more to add to the quote. It’s something I’ve said, in my own words, countless times over. This image was hugely inspired not by any photographer (or photography mentor) but a print-maker named Nathan Abel, who I had the pleasure to learn under in the printmaking lab at the University of Arizona. I made this photograph while I was attending his printmaking course, and the process of drawing solar- and mono-prints, etchings and xerox transfers, influenced how I looked at the world through the camera lens.

Even though I’m not a print-maker like Nathan, or anybody else who works in a printmaking lab, I have worked as a photographic print-maker for my entire adult (and most of my teenage) years. I was struck how the introduction of a new discipline opened new doors for me, and is the most solid reminder I have to continue introducing new ideas and disciplines into my day-to-day life, because they tend to help my own work grow and evolve.

Experimentation is key in the creative arts, and I highly value that very brief summer course. I learned an awful lot that I hadn’t expected to learn in the least; I was just trying to fill up that damn credit requirement. I guess you never know what’s going to happen, so long as you’re willing to dive in, give new things a try, and say ‘yes’ to uncomfortable territory.

Thanks, Nate.

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April 08, 2017 – Message Board

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McNary, Arizona, is only about ten minutes down the road from Pinetop-Lakeside. Unlike the Pinetop community – with curio shops, antique malls, and a well-established network of cabins, resorts, hotels, and restaurants – McNary is a forgotten, depressed community with collapsing buildings, open dumping grounds in the middle of residential neighborhoods, and shuttered shop windows. The population is around five hundred people, eight-six percent of which live below the poverty line.

Here’s one of the old shop signs, covered with graffiti, bulletins, and the faded original paint.

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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 08, 2017 – An Antique Land

east-helen-post

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The difficulty with making anything that could even closely be mistaken for art is that art is entirely subjective. We live in a highly interconnected world, and there are volumes of online videos, written articles, marketing books, and web pages dedicated to “hacking” yourself into financial success. That’s fine, except it reduces art to a craft – identify your niche in the market, and then do nothing but the same thing, over and over and over again until it’s time to retire.

There’s a lot of beautiful work made by incredibly talented people who adopt this model of marketing, but I can’t quite seem to hop aboard. I don’t want to sit down, do some social media research, and then spend the rest of my life making different versions of the same picture. I suppose this is why I haven’t ever struck it rich as a creative professional – but I’m definitely satisfied when I finish a piece.

This is the newest image in a series that I started about a decade ago, called ‘An Antique Land,’ a line borrowed from Percy Shelley’s poem. To me, this series of architectural ‘portraits’ taps into the impermanence of our communities. But I prefer not to comment much beyond that; I don’t like to tell people what to think about this kind of work. My interpretation, or my intent, doesn’t imbue this images with significance. I like the idea of people looking at this kind of work and bringing their own ideas to the table.

Until next time, folks. I’ll be seeing you soon.

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”
Diane Arbus

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February 01, 2017 – The Flood

thefloodpost

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Welcome to February. It’s the month when we’re all over it – the holidays, the cold, the relentless winter. This is the last long stretch until the earth starts to really wake up and remind us that it was worth the wait. It’s a long month, but we find a way to survive it, year after year, because that’s what we do. We endure it, and we wait for the green grass and the warm sun and the spring (and summer) rains.

We have this curious tendency to always make comparisons. To always focus on how things are imperfect. To always look to the future, when things are finally – finally! – going to be better.

For about two weeks after its arrival, we love spring. We rejoice in the weather and the light and the lengthening days. But then the heat of summer looms over on the horizon – and the oak mites and mosquito bites – and we immediately start to fixate on the colors of autumn and the warm friendly gatherings around the backyard fire as the earth begins to cool again, the smell of burning leaves, the cool breeze drifting in from the cracked window that makes it possible once again to clutch your partner close in bed without waking up bathed in sweat in the middle of the night because it’s so damn hot. We obsess over our elaborate Halloween decorations, our friends and family gathered around the Thanksgiving table, the wine and conversation as we gather around the fireplace.

Some like it cold. Some like it hot. Most of us find some silly reason to hate what we have, and yearn for what’s coming next. That’s the big mistake.

Rubbing my cold feet together, sitting in front of the computer tonight, I came across this picture – a flooded street in the warehouse district on South Euclid Avenue in Tucson, Arizona. Deprived of water and rainfall for most of the year, the monsoon rains that descend upon the Mojave Desert in July are a welcome reprieve from the oppressive summer heat. But the streets flood and the mosquitoes proliferate. The joy is short-lived and the complaints begin, almost instantly. And I just don’t get it. It happens every year, so it isn’t as if some kind of mysterious plague has blown into town that we couldn’t have expected.

A biblical flood in the desert? It’s more of a miracle than it is a curse, even if your commute is inconvenienced.

Life in the desert is a life of extremes. Freezing weather during the winter nights and oppressive heat during the summer. I feel like this is the perfect environment to develop a genuine appreciation for how fragile life is, how frail our ecosystem. When I’m freezing cold, or when I can’t seem to cool down (and want to dump ice water over myself), I try to concentrate on the engine of change, and the stubborn human spirit that stares the changing seasons down like a twitching-trigger-finger cowboy in an old western duel.

We endure. And there is so much more worth loving than there is worth complaining about here.
Without mincing words, all I can say is this: I fucking love living in the Tucson desert.

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January 15, 2017 – Rusted Car

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Today’s image – like most of them – is pretty self-explanatory. I mean, it’s photography, right?

Usually – but hey, not necessarily always – it’s almost always obvious what a photographic image is actually of. Even a brickwork of primary-colored Mondrian tiles is imbued with subtext and pregnant with meaning. So why not a portrait of a rusted heap, rotting in the desert like a disposed of beer can baking under the sun?

But it isn’t my job to tell anybody how they’re supposed to feel about an image like this. Much of my work, I’ve been told, carries with it, or conveys, a certain ambivalence. This isn’t even halfway close to true. I compose my images carefully, but I’m not concerned, at least not at all times, with being explicit with personal meanings. Ambiguity allows for different experiences, and I think that ambiguity can be a very powerful tool when creating artwork – especially photographic artwork, which is often disregarded as an easy, unimportant happenstance that occurs between the photographer and whatever happens to fall before his or her camera lens.

I am drawn to textures, contrasts, and colors. And I love the camera’s ability to take everyday objects and completely re-frame them. We all know what a car is – wheels and a seat, a hood and door-handles. But when we encounter cars in our day-to-day lives, we’re always taking in the whole thing. It’s a familiar object and, because of its familiarity, it’s easy to disregard. But when you look at the details, the scratches, the design of the body, the wear on the upholstery, the scuffs on the tires, something else emerges. I wouldn’t want to give that ‘something’ a name, really, but the camera has given me, if nobody else that looks at my photographs, the ability to recognize absolutely insane beauty in the unutterably mundane.

In a world filled with cars – to an almost sickening degree – I was walking down the road and saw the age and rust on this particular vehicle, and I was drawn to it. So…I dunno. Do with that anecdote what you will.

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