June 24, 2017 – Caitlin Strachen

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Caitlin is a magnetic and multi-talented woman. She’s also effortlessly mysterious; she seems almost shy and reserved when you spend time around her because she’s incredibly thoughtful and quiet. But she springs into action when the spotlight lands on her. Today’s images come from the 2012 ‘Cabaret de los Muertos’ in Bisbee, a nascent variety show that, sadly, only lasted two seasons. But hey, that’s small-town life. When one tradition fails to take root, there are always other interesting concoctions that spring up.

At the time, Caitlin was still studying art and living a couple hundred miles north in Prescott, Arizona, but with roots and family in Bisbee, she made the trip down and dazzled. Her first set was a tap-dance, dressed in red and black, and she caught everybody’s eye. In local theater, some presentations are humorously under-rehearsed (but usually beloved because the performers are locally known). This performance, however, was elevated beyond that modest ‘community theater’ standard. She absolutely killed it.

And I don’t think it’s even possible to take a bad photograph of her- truth words.

Porcelain skin, a dancer’s physique, and a captivating smile – she is a pleasure to watch. She sings, plays the flute, and dances, and she does all of these things with a grace, elegance, and professionalism that’s rare, especially for a woman her age. This quiet, seemingly shy blonde girl – with the perfect curly locks – is something special to behold.

But you’ll have to go to Bisbee if you want to see her.

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June 13, 2017 – Jessica Fleet Smith

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I’ve known Jessica Fleet Smith for a few years now. I’d always see her and her husband at Mimosa Market, a small bodega up brewery gulch in Bisbee, Arizona – one of those places tucked just far enough away that few tourists ever find it. She’s a unique creature, light-hearted and quick to smile, and always seemed rather shy. That’s part of what makes her so intriguing, I think. Effortlessly beautiful but secure in her relationship, appearing shy but absolutely confident enough to stand behind the microphone and perform in front of a gathered crowd. She’s a very genuine person, reserved and gutsy at the same time.

Today’s image is an unconventional one. I shared it on Facebook a few years ago after she performed with a group called Chasing Light at the Sidepony Express music festival. The classroom, news publications, critiques, and art critics drill into photographers that if the image isn’t tack-sharp, it isn’t worth looking at. This convention of “the image must be technically perfect” robs the photographer of so many opportunities. I’m a fan of atmosphere, of motion-blur, of selective focus – of the certain kind of mood that can be established using these tools. I think there’s something emotional and ethereal about images like this, taken from the crowd, imperfect and out of focus, and let’s face it – I’m no longer in the classroom, no longer pressured to make somebody else’s idea of the perfect picture.

I think this image captures Jessica’s bravery (and her distance) quite well.

Out of the Blue, the group Jessica is currently working with, doesn’t stray from Bisbee very often. But if you’re taking a trip down to the copper town that once was – if the fake, theme-park atmosphere of Tombstone doesn’t distract you from heading further south – I’d be sure to look ’em up. You can follow Out of the Blue on Facebook here.

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June 02, 2017 – Fire Dance

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A very healthy example of the ‘nouveau cirque’ movement includes a group here in Tucson called “Flam Chen,” a pyrotechnic theater company established in 1994. I was first exposed to them while making a documentary about a local piercing and tattoo organization while also assembling a thesis revolving around body-modification and Modern Primitive subculture.

In April 2010 the troupe performed at a locally famous tiki bar on Broadway, Kon Tiki (try the ‘scorpion bowl,’ guys – it’s serious). The torches in front of the establishment were lit for the first time in over twenty-five years and Flam Chen was the special guest to help commemorate the event.

relight

Today’s image is of a woman named Aurelia Cohen – a musician, dancer, choreographer, and aerial-silk artist, just to name a simple fraction of her talents. Physically disciplined with undeniable stage presence, chances are good that people don’t forget if/when they’re lucky enough to see her perform.

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A Lost Portrait

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Almost ten years ago I was laid off from work. It was like being dumped for the first time – I didn’t know quite how to take it or what to do, and it hurt. I had recently moved into an old cinder-block garage that had been converted into a guest house. A dreary place with low ceilings, no climate control, swarming with termites. The air was so thick during the monsoon season that my photographic prints stuck to each-other, ruining them, and the lower areas would collect pools of water.

In short – it was an adventure. Enough time separates the ‘then’ and the ‘now’ that I have some fond memories of sitting on the “living-room” floor with my friend Tammy, playing songs on the acoustic guitar by candlelight when the monsoon storms knocked out the power, a ceramic plate between us on the floor with tobacco and rolling papers. I spent all of my time reading the backlog of books in my collection and would go on bike rides around town.

Another of my friends, Megan, spent a lot of time being a lazy bastard with me, too. Many, many years ago I promised her I’d make a painting of her. As time passed, she would always remind me and I would always tell her I’d get to it eventually. While digging through some old hard drives looking for material for the ‘Image A Day’ project, I found an old folder with some snapshots from that summer of uncertainty, alongside a halfway completed digital illustration. I decided to set everything aside and finally finish it.

The irony, of course, is that Megan has vanished from social media, so I don’t even have the pleasure of tagging her. Smart phones were barely a thing, I was too poor to have one at the time, and none of my old flip-phones survive. So she’s lost to the ages, floating out there somewhere. With any luck, this post will magically cross her path.

In either even, it feels good to cross another project off the infinite list.
Onward and upward.

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March 13, 2017 – Tarahumara Woman

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The black and white “street portrait” is a staple in photographic expression. Many young photographers insist on moving to big cities so that they can wander the streets and try to capture poignant moments, unique portraits, weathered faces. Just like many of the textures I photograph, the object is to take the ‘everyday’ or ‘banal’ and figure out a way to transform it, through the camera lens, into something meaningful. With street portraiture, unlike photographing inanimate abstract details, the object is to try and tell a story, to find something emotional and authentic.

It’s not always easy. Life moves faster than one might initially think; put a camera to your face at the farmer’s market and try to make a good, candid photograph of even just one person. You’ll notice that everything around you is a whirlwind. Children run around, people walk into your frame, or people notice you and begin to behave differently (it doesn’t matter if they’re attracted to being photographed or repulsed).

This is probably my favorite portrait taken during this particular trip to Mexico.

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January 09, 2017 – The Love Of A Good Woman

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Making art is like writing a love song to the beauty of…being alive. No artist was ever inspired to scratch graphite onto paper or lay pigment onto canvas who wasn’t in love, or devastated by sorrow, with the miracle of being alive, sentient, able to experience all of the landscapes and views, colors and splendor.

Making art with a loved one is transcendent.

The painful part is when love fails. I have a catalogue of photographs, drawings, paintings, of all of the women I have loved in my life. When the relationship fails there are hard feelings and bittersweet memories, and we tend to tell stories of the mayhem and anger and frustration – but I have all of these documents of the good times, and I can’t deny that those good times actually happened.

It kinda keeps you honest, you know? We want to paint a picture of that jerk, that dysfunctional person, that demon – but at the end of the day, we were once in love with them, weren’t we? And social media is extending this, where we can all look back at the jobs that were lost, relationships that ended, sunrises and sunsets that we will never see again.

I am nostalgic about yesterday, for God’s sake. I am riddled with sadness, almost all of the time. Because, at the end of the day, it has all been good, and memorable, and inspiring. And I continue to make artwork and celebrate the experiences I’ve had with those that are close to me, because I have to believe that maybe this time the story will last longer, that feelings won’t turn sour, that the world is going to be okay, make sense, turn out okay.

That’s how I feel when I am with this woman. I feel light. And I feel comforted. And I feel inspired. And there’s no greater feeling than having the love of a good woman. No greater feeling at all.

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January 02, 2017 – Crying Statues

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This image is an echo of a photograph I took almost seventeen years ago in Boston. I was still in high school, shooting black and white film, and I photographed an image of a statue – a weeping Native American woman, a memorial for the Trail of Tears. In the image a white, long tear can be seen dripping down the statue’s face – pigeon excrement, yes, but it photographed quite well. In today’s image, if you look close to this Sedona statue’s face, the rain is running down her face in a similar – albeit much more subtle – fashion.

Like yesterday’s photograph, this one was taken on vacation in Sedona. I was in the company of a lovely woman, swirling rain-clouds, and the unique red rocks of the region. Hiking in the rain, watching the clouds smother the red rock peaks, and the smell of the Arizona desert – a perfect start to the new year.

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”
~C.S. Lewis

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