May 27, 2017 – Walkabout

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“It’s often about the simple things, isn’t it? Painting and photography are first about seeing, they say. Writing is about observing. Technique is secondary. Sometimes the simple is the most difficult.”
~Linda Olsson

I’ve collected a lot of portraits like this during my bike rides and walkabouts in Tucson. North Stone Avenue is rich with old barber shops, auto repairs shops, and unique private markets. In an urban and suburban landscape increasingly swallowed-up by Levittown-style housing homogeneity and glossy corporate businesses, it’s nice to see small, privately owned businesses. Sometimes the character is rustic, and many of these businesses are struggling, but they have a salt-of-the earth quality that I will always appreciate.

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May 19, 2017 – Somewhere In New Mexico

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Hillsboro, New Mexico, is one of those places you would never know existed unless you intentionally decided to go out of your way. Luckily for me, that’s something I try to always do when traveling cross-country. The interstate is efficient, but it divorces the driver from the surrounding world; state routes always take you through winding paths, beautiful scenic views, and into strange little towns.

Hillsboro is due north of Deming, New Mexico, just off state route 152. It’s right on the edge of the Gila National Forest, and the winding road takes you through some absolutely gorgeous territory. When I last passed through, it was late October and the trees were dropping yellow leaves all around. The town proper is tiny – if you blink, you’ll miss it. There’s a post office, a couple of empty store fronts, and quaint little manicured lawns. According to the 2010 census, only 124 people live here. Like so many other small towns of the Southwest, Hillsboro was primarily a mining town, but even at its height in the late 1880s, the population never swelled past one thousand.

Always keep your eyes peeled when you’re on the road. There are a lot of interesting little places out there, just waiting for you.

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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 13, 2017 – Tucson Rail-yard

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I have published various iterations of this image. I took a lot of pictures that day, my feet crunching through the stones alone the railroad tracks. In this particular section in downtown Tucson, the rail-line runs behind warehouses and various artist spaces. I remember going out back during a show I was performing in at a place called, at the time, The Space. It was a fashion and music showcase, and I was wearing these amazing custom-made pantaloons and a painted-on curly mustache for a little performance piece.

Booze was flowing, and we were able to override the city ordinance by accepting donations, rather than accepting cash, for liquor. Art was on the walls and the music was loud, and I was half-clothed, wandering around without my glasses, pretty-well out of my mind. Halogen track lights on red brick and a clutch of people dancing and laughing. We’d congregate on the back stoop, a small group of us, on a rickety wooden platform with three precarious steps down to the graveled ground, just ten feet from the rail line. I remember hunkering down, red wine in a plastic cup, smoking a cigarette, as the train whooshed by, drowning-out our conversation.

Ten years later, I realize that these are the stories I’ll be telling to younger people. You know, “when I was in college” or “when I was your age” type of stories. Speaking about when times were more innocent, when the rules were more relaxed, when we got away with murder and still can’t believe it. I think this happens with every generation. I’m glad I was wild and reckless and had a memorable night in a strange performance space along Congress Avenue, with a collective of creative and free spirits, huddled against the darkness, in this tiny little corner of the cosmos.

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May 09, 2017 – The Blue Door

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This is a building on Subway Street in Bisbee, Arizona, a small town that used to be the most productive mining operation in America. The mine isn’t fully operational today, and the town was in danger of becoming a ghost town after the mine shut down several decades ago. Low property values motivated an influx of artists, hippies, and dropouts, and it has become something of a vacation destination. It’s a beautiful town with a service industry, hotels, and local markets – one-hundred miles from Tucson, and one-hundred years away from modern life.

Sadly, this doorway is now obscured by a metal gate, and has been repainted several times. Famously, even though there’s no solid proof, this building is the oldest structure in Bisbee. It was supposedly once owned by screen actor John Wayne, and is currently a residence available for rent; I used to live in the small apartment next door. It’s a simple little building with few windows, dark inside but built to remain cool in the Arizona heat without the advantage of modern air conditioning. I managed to photograph the outside of the building before a gate was erected and a metal door was installed. It was genuinely beautiful.

But like so many beautiful things, it had to be covered, protected, and removed from the public eye.
I’m just glad I got there before it disappeared.

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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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May 03, 2017 – Enter Here

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If there’s one place you want to see old broken signs in front of defunct businesses, it’s the southwest – Tucson is a treasure trove, if you take the time to drive around and open your eyes. This sign is outside an old auto mechanic, long-abandoned with plywood for windows and newspaper blowing through the car bays like tumbleweeds in an old Spaghetti Western.

Adjacent is an old shuttered hotel – I’ve been told a hotel that was once considered a very posh, must-see place – called The Spanish Trail. This is all right off of I-10 East, five minutes from Downtown Tucson. The highway is screaming, and these creaky old buildings just sit, gathering graffiti and squatters, and an unusual amount of abandoned shopping carts.

I’m not even saying that it’s tragic. I find a beauty in these remnants. I guess the only thing really poignant, to me, is that these places are chilling reminders that things don’t ever stay the same for very long.

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