May 26, 2017 – Downtown Tucson

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“Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact”
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

Originally known as the Willard Hotel, this property on South 6th Avenue – a stone’s throw away from the heart of downtown – was renamed the Pueblo Hotel in 1944. This weathered sign was installed in the 1950s. The hotel and apartments closed in 1984, when I was only one year old, and is currently home to a law office. The sign remains, though, even if it might be a little misleading. It was restored to like-new condition back in 2012 and I’m really pleased that I photographed it before the change.

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May 25, 2017 – Ideal

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“Time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art.”
~Susan Sontag

There’s little that I could even consider writing about today’s image. Sometimes simplicity and irony speak loudly enough for themselves. This image was made before a greater part of downtown Tucson was renovated. I would have to drive down to South Sixth Avenue to confirm it for myself, but I’m assuming that this business is either something completely new or has been refurbished.

Of course, it’s always possible that nothing has changed at all.

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May 17, 2017 – The Warehouse District

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I can guarantee you that I’ve published this image before – probably on this website – but I’m too lazy to search around and confirm it. Regardless, this is one of my favorite images from that period of my life. I had recently been laid off, and my girlfriend left me for one of my other good friends – a bass player in a local band – and I was pretty much the definition of ‘down and out.’

Pretty melodramatic in hindsight, but I was living in a renovated garage with no air conditioning or heat – the place was a cinder-block dump, maybe four hundred square feet with termites and concrete floors and a bathroom smaller than a closet. The monsoon was sticky and hot, and I remember nights huddled in the shack with friends, hand-rolling cigarettes and listening to music, playing guitar, passing the time with idle conversation and cheep beer. I didn’t have much, but I didn’t need much. It wasn’t a bad time, looking back – it was just difficult, and new. A few romantic flings, a minimal approach to living, few responsibilities – I made it through.

I used to ride my bike, every day, to Raging Sage, a coffee house a couple miles down the road. I probably read two books a week during that period of unemployment. I always kept my camera with me, too. I rode all around the city looking for interesting things to photograph. South Euclid Avenue was filled with interesting textures, buildings, warehouses, graffiti, and other industrial ephemera. And this is one of my favorite images from that period, right along the railroad.

Sometimes having nothing – or next to nothing – can be the most liberating thing in the world. I had a couple of months where I didn’t have to answer to anybody. Sure, I was applying for work and trying to get back into the market, but I had a lot of extra time, and it was extra time that I had never experience before in my entire life. I read books and rode my bike, entertained guests at my little casita, and enjoyed the company of a few lovely women. Looking back, it’s one of the more romantic periods of my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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May 16, 2017 – Downtown

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
~Leonardo da Vinci

I think there’s an elegant truth to this quote, in both concrete and abstract ways. I have always had a difficult time explaining to people why I enjoy abstract and minimalist artwork, and a lot of what I enjoy has to do with the absolute lack of concrete meaning; the viewer can bring their own ideas and emotions and sensibilities into their individual interpretation.

An abstract piece of art can be something different for each and every person who sees it.

When it comes to lifestyle, simplicity can also be an important thing. We seem to be in the habit of accumulating things, surrounding ourselves with mountains of stuff. There’s no judgement as I write these words; I am a textbook example. I often describe myself to others as a ‘collector’ – of films, albums, books, graphic novels, trading cards, photographs, artwork, and so much more. But letting go of things can be incredibly uplifting and liberating.

Today’s image is of an old auto repair shop – you can just barely read the old lettering on the sign. This was downtown Tucson, sometime around 2010, as the whole city crumpled under the economic downturn. Construction projects shut down and half-completed houses and apartments and businesses became graffiti magnets and squatter territories. Small businesses closed down and others trimmed their workforce to try and stay afloat – I was eventually laid off from my own job, and I spent my time in-between job interviews riding my bike around town taking photographs. Houses were abandoned and plywood replaced windows. It was a strange time.

At some point I may go back and re-photograph some of the scenes I’ve shared during this ‘Image a Day’ project. I’d be curious to see what’s still there and how things have changed. But that’ll be a project for another day.

Hope all is well with you.
Cheers.

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May 07, 2017 – Blue Alley

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Somewhere in downtown Tucson, on South Stone Avenue, is this pretty little stretch of road. Most of it has been resurfaced, re-worked, restored, renewed. It’s polished and shiny today, but I was there several years ago and captured a lot of photographs of the neighborhood before everything was changed. In the summer, during the July monsoon, this part of town was devoid of people – it was quiet, with no traffic, and every building was covered in street art. I would ride my bike down here pretty often, even though I lived north of midtown at the time, to walk around with my camera.

It’s vandalism, sure. It may represent poverty or a devalued neighborhood. It may be considered by some to be ugly. I never really saw that. I always thought that the evolving canvas of these downtown buildings was beautiful. Here’s just one small little taste.

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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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February 17 – Hotel Monte Vista

02-17 Monte Vista postAutomobile culture reached Arizona in the early 1900s and brought major roadway projects (see yesterday’s post about Miracle Mile Road) and an increase in tourism, which delivered new money to Flagstaff in the 1920s. Fundraising began in 1926 by local community leaders to establish first-class accommodation to replace some of the outmoded and run-down hotels.

Ground broke for the 73 room Community Hotel (named in honor of the prominent citizens who funded its construction) on June 8 of that year. It was finished in six months, opening its doors on New Years Day, 1927.

My first visit was back in 2005 or 2006, when I had the chance to tag along with a friend of mine. We worked together at a local Tucson photo lab and he happened to be a drummer in a band called “The Deludes.” I was able to hop aboard for a show they’d booked at the hotel’s “Cocktail Lounge.” It was a prohibition-era bootlegging operation, but the secret wasn’t kept long – local officers disrupted the illegal business in 1931. Ironically, the speakeasy reopened only two years later when prohibition was lifted.

It is one of the oldest operating hotels in Flagstaff and is a registered historic landmark, and its sign is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Flagstaff.

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