I remember overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop some years ago where a gentleman said something like this:
“I always have people ask me why I’m so serious. I often overhear people telling their friends not to take ‘this’ or ‘that’ too seriously. And I got to thinking about it. If we need to learn how to not take life so damn seriously, we ought also to learn to not take death so seriously.”
I’m not sure, but it stuck with me. A simple exchange, maybe a completely spontaneous thought from a total stranger I was eavesdropping on – but it stuck with me. I think about it often, especially after losing several friends, relatives, and acquaintances over the past several years. It’s unusual to me – at least intellectually – to be so incredibly afraid of something that literally every single living thing in the cosmos will eventually have to do, which is to die.
Different cultures treat death differently, but there are always common themes of loss, sadness, tragedy and redemption, rebirth, or some form of ‘life after death.’ I’ve enjoyed photographing various rituals and discovering some of the nuances of life and death celebrations in the American Southwest and Mexico.
Living in Tucson for a majority of the past fifteen years, I saw a lot of bands come and go. Many of my college buddies had garage bands and a few of them had it in them to hit the downtown music scene. Most of them have scattered to the wind these past few years as degrees were earned, families begun and careers established. There are some,though, who have had some serious staying power here in Arizona, and Carlos Arzate is one of them.
Carlos Arzate is a singer-songwriter, native to Tucson, whose songs draw inspiration from his personal life growing up in the Sonoran Desert. I believe I read an article in The Tucson Weekly that described his style as “Sonoran Soul.” It’s got a ring to it, but it implies a softness that, while present in many of his songs, doesn’t communicate the dynamism of his work.
Arzate is just as expressive and kind in person as he is on stage, and he’s deeply anchored in the music scene, collaborating with other prominent musicians. I have enjoyed every performance and would absolutely recommend checking out Carlos Arzate & The Kind Souls. The songs tell a story, communicate an emotion and paint atmospheric pictures.
This is one of my favorites, written as a first person narrative of a laborer who chooses to risk the dangerous journey across the desert to the United States in search of a better life.
“Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact”
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.
“Time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art.”
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.
Glenwood is a small little hamlet in Catron County, New Mexico, less than an hour north of Silver City. Officially founded in 1878, fewer than two-hundred people live there today; the silver and gold rush had, once upon a time, attracted a healthy number of people looking to carve their way into the riverbeds and canyons to earn their fortune.
As part of the Gila National Forest, there are some pristine landscapes. There’s also a small little area known as ‘The Catwalk,’ a National Recreation Trail, which follows the route of the old pipeline used by mining operations along the side of Whitewater Canyon.
Little else is here save for abandoned houses and defunct businesses slowly being reclaimed by nature. Just my kind of place.
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
I’m not sure if this place still exists. Unfortunately, I don’t even remember where it is. It’s probably somewhere on South Stone Avenue, or in the warehouse district on South Park Avenue. I suppose I could look it up, but it really isn’t important. I just remember riding my bike through the wrecked car lots, the warehouses, over the railroad tracks by the lumber yards and steel yards and welding operations.
I try to image what these places must have looked like when they were brand new. I can’t seem to conjure the image in my head. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a salvage yard or a warehouse that looked clean and new, with fresh signage and rust-free construction. These places always look like they’ve been there forever – they always look old. Old and tired.
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.