Kill Your Television

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So there was this one day when we had a lot of spare time, a case of beer, a JEEP with a failing transmission, a .22 caliber rifle and a television set that I’d been spending way too much time trying to fix. Call it ‘capricious youth,’ but there’s something cathartic about driving out into the desert and firing a few rounds into a useless item that needs to be put down.

My lady and I had a similar experience last week when we wanted to shampoo the carpet before assembling our baby’s new crib in the soon-to-be nursery. After struggling for about an hour and spilling water & cleaning solution all over the house, it was clear that the machine needed to be put out of its misery. I would have enjoyed driving out to the mountain and delivering a genuine and honest execution, but who has the time anymore? Instead, it was a gangland assassination commensurate with the xerox machine scene from Office Space, in the parking lot outside of our townhouse.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to exhale some serious frustration.
My recommendation? Kill your television, not a person. Then make some art out of it.

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Tombstone & Tianya Milagro

Tianya - Big Nose Kates postThere’s nothing more dangerous than a beautiful woman packing attitude…and pistolas.

Everybody knows Tombstone from the movies. A few folks are lucky enough to travel through the desert valleys of Southern Arizona and lay their own eyes on it. It’s a small town, and one’s liable to miss it if they blink. It’s a bit of a theme park now, a mixture of pageantry and bravado, with an entertaining contingent of leather-clad bikers who walk the boardwalks side-by-side with entertainers dressed in 19th Century Western attire.

The West was won and the mining operations eventually slowed down. There are no Apaches in the hills to threaten the camp. The barges that ran north along the San Pedro River are just about forgotten, and the short-line railroads that carried the ore North to the Union Pacific line have been decommissioned. Daily reenactments of the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral” and a healthy flow of live music and adult beverage have prevented the town from turning into a wax museum.

Tombstone attracts a certain kind of person. Eccentricity is a prerequisite for anybody who’d move to a town and wear 1880’s period clothing for a living, adopt the language & mannerisms of frontiersmen and women, and exist under the punishing heat of Sonoran Desert summers. It also takes a certain kind of madman to spot the pretty girl in the saloon and hand her two pistols and insist she hop up on the bar for a photograph.

But that’s what Tianya did. She was performing with the Cochise College Dance Club, and that attractive specimen – fair skin in the sun-drenched thoroughfare, belly-dance threads, all hips and legs – turned a lot of heads. She finished her shot of tequila, plucked those pistols from his mitts and, with a puckish grin, hopped up onto the bar. She takes to the spotlight quite well, and the world is most certainly her stage.

To my own lamentations, the photographs didn’t turn out well enough to publish; the saloon was crowded and the light was pitifully low. Rather than scrap them entirely, it made a lot more sense to paint the scene instead. This would be the result of those efforts and, if I’m to toot a high note from my own little horn, it captures her spirit quite well.

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January 08 – Tragedy In Tucson

01-08 Tragedy in Tucson post

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

~Plato

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Five years ago violence was visited upon Tucson when a gunman opened fire at a grocery store parking lot. Nineteen individuals were shot, including United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Six people lost their lives. I expect that this anniversary will be marked by many in the media, especially after President Obama’s executive order earlier this week. Gun control legislation continues to be a huge point of contention among American voters, but gun violence continues to be an undeniable problem. This isn’t the forum for an individual like myself to hammer out a screed about the issue. All I know is that I was in Tucson that day and I remember how it felt.

I had only just heard the news when my phone rang. A gentleman from SIPA Press introduced himself. He had received my name from a journalist friend of mine, who had explained I’d likely be available to cover the story. This would be the first time I was ever hired to work as a photographic journalist. With shaky hands and shallow breath, I packed up my gear and headed down to the University Medical Center where the wounded, including Representative Giffords, were being treated. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this job, and I certainly didn’t know what to expect. But I knew I had to go and try my best to do a decent and respectful job.

The next several days were a blur of people in mourning, of funerals and press conferences, of being pressured to go to Jared Loughner’s home and try and get pictures. Any time when I began to feel like a paparazzo, I put my camera down. There were some things I wouldn’t do. Cristina Green – the nine-year-old girl who lost her life in the shooting – was particularly challenging. The media predictably poured in like ghouls for the funeral, sticking microphones into crying faces and asking people “how do you feel, sitting out here” while they choked and sobbed their responses. I was thankful, in that moment, to be a photographer; I was able to do my job from a distance rather than invade people’s space in a moment of sadness.

There is a lot more I could say – about violent political rhetoric, about the second amendment, about the moments years later when I got to sit down with Mark Kelly and Gabby for a brief cup of coffee – but again, I don’t really think this is the place. Gabby has made more of a recovery than any of us could have ever hoped or expected. Jared Loughner, the wild-eyed gunman, is serving seven consecutive life sentences. The world is still here, even if it has been deprived of a not-so-insignificant portion of peace and happiness.

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