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.
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.
There are lots of clichés to either avoid or embrace when developing one’s own photographic style. Portraits with the horizontal bands of light from window blinds raking across the subjects face, looking for garbage on the ground and trying to find the ‘beauty’ in it, and then of course there’s always graffiti. And this is just to name a few.
I guess my weakness is graffiti. Almost like compiling a mix tape, photographing graffiti is like appropriating somebody else’s art in order to express yourself. Knowing that it’s a common subject in college photography classes, I was always keen to try and document graffiti in a way that combined the tagger’s artistic sensibilities with my own. Not entirely sure how successful I’ve been – it’s always a challenge, evaluating your own work – but I’m quite fond of how this image turned out.
On the south side of Tucson, where faded murals and rusted boxcars sit under the desert sun, I always know where to go to find interesting textures to photograph. I hope you enjoy today’s picture of the day.