Sunday, April 15, 2018

Model's Model: Donald Blake



Day before yesterday I saw Instagram and Facebook posts from Reid Callanan the owner of the Santa Fe Workshops, one of the premiere photography workshop operations in the country. In his entries Callanan writes about Donald Blake who has modelled at the Workshops for almost twenty years. To celebrate that milestone, the school has just published a book of his portraits. I had the privilege of photographing Donald during an extraordinary portrait lighting class with Alan Thornton ten years ago this summer. Didn't see mine in the book though.

In his commentary Callanan extols Donald’s grasp of the portrait making craft, allowing that he has “offered more insights and advice than many of our instructors.” I can attest to it. While I was taking his portrait, he was suggesting where to place the softboxes, what angle would be best, even the f-stop. And he was right on all counts.

Donald was recovering from a serious illness at the time. Don't recall the malady. Though he appeared frail he was 100% engaged and very much in command. We were shooting in a recently shuttered hospital so we were awash in ghoulish props. As a matter of fact, he was sitting in a wheelchair between institutional green walls when this was taken. The setting was ironic given his condition.

During his nearly twenty year modelling stint at the Workshops Donald’s portrait has been taken by hundreds of photographers. They include students like me and famous ones like Joe McNally who has called Donald Blake his favorite model, period. McNally’s photographs are predictably the first two in the new book. He, like Reid Callanan, calls Donald a friend, first, then a model. That’s as much a testament to the man as the book.

The title is “Donald.” It’s available from blurb.com.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Buy dear. Sell low.



Continuing the look back at portraits made over the years, here’s one of Taos icon Joe Graves. It was taken at Lynn Canterbury’s abode in Alcalde, NM on the same photographically rich day that Lynn’s was made.

Like Lynn, Joe is a mountain man but one of a more modern persuasion. No early nineteenth century regalia for Joe. He’s a living breathing man of the land and another maker of useful things, like flints for starting fires. Joe is one tough customer. I’ve heard tell that one time he lost a tooth. So, he promptly carved a wooden one that he tied into place with monofilament. I’m pretty sure there was no Novocain involved. You'll be relieved to know that some months later Joe was able to buy a bona fide false tooth in Mexico.

One day I was sitting in Lindsey Enderby’s Horse Feathers store while Lindsey held court and Joe and I listened raptly. Joe was demonstrating one of his handmade fire starters when Lindsey gave me an arched eye that said, “You’ll buy that thing if you know what’s good for you.” Ever compliant, I asked Joe how much it was. Joe gave me a price of say, $25.00. I looked at Lindsey who jerked his right thumb upward as if to say “higher.” Being the intrepid negotiator that I am, I doubled the price.

Never pay less if you can pay more. That’s my motto.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

1.3 degrees of separation from Lindsey Enderby



Last week I said I’d post a photograph of my dear friend Lindsey Enderby. Turns out I had lunch with the boy yesterday along with his friend and mine, Lucky Bill Parrish, the renowned cowboy baritone and all ‘round good guy from Richmond, Virginia. In a wide-ranging conversation over bountiful burgers at the Taos Ale House, Bill and I circled around to the fact that we had both met Lindsey at his legendary cowboy emporium, Horse Feathers, Bill in 1994 and I around 2004. Lindsey takes in strays, so we immediately joined his band of merrymen and have grown into late middle age while in his thrall.

I posited that if there are six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon there are precisely 1.3 degrees from Lindsey Enderby meaning that if you ask Jim Bob in Harlan County, Kentucky if he knows Lindsey, he will, he will have met him at Horse Feathers even though Jim Bob has never left the holler. It’s a miracle of science and a mystery of the universe I’m telling you.

In the image above Lindsey is doing his best Will Rogers impression, an aw shucks persona behind which lurks a steely eyed ex-lawyer, student body president at SMU and all post football champeen in his Army Reserve days. It was taken in the late, much missed Horse Feathers store in late April 2008.

Ten years. How they fly.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Lynn Canterbury, Mountain Man



Usually I find an image to post by going through digital files that relate to the theme of the moment, in this case portraits. Today, though, a print jumped out at me, grabbed me by the shorts and demanded representation.

Prompted by the print I searched for the original file. It wasn’t in its rightful home, the Monumental Heads portfolio. So, I photographed the print on the top of the stereo cabinet in the living room window, handheld no less.

Lynn Canterbury is later day frontiersman, mountain man reenactor and a maker of tools from the early nineteenth century. This was taken at Lynn’s Alcalde (mayor in English) New Mexico home in a living room crammed with things being crafted and materials for a myriad of projects.

My best guess is that this was taken about ten years ago on an excursion led by my great friend Lindsey Enderby, the lapsed lawyer and full-time raconteur.

Come to think of it, that day whenever it was, was a fine one for portraits. Lovely open shade and good, good, good, good vibrations.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Another man in a hat: Fedora Issue



Peter Lev is a big time rock and ice climber as well as a noted avalanche forecaster. He calls the later skill a black art, one that’s more a crap shoot than a precise science. Like our dear friend George Hurley, Peter got his first taste of vertical rock while a student at the University of Colorado in the late fifties. That passion morphed into an ownership stake in famed Exum Mountain Guides in Moose, Wyoming which is the oldest climbing school in the United States.

Now a resident of Lead, North Dakota, pronounced lead as in leader not lead as in led, Peter continues to climb the famed Needles in Custer State Park, a state park that rivals many a National Park for shear grandeur. This candid photograph happened over adult beverages in the town of Hot Springs during a climbing trip. Matter of fact, George was in attendance, too.

The man has a great mug but he winced about this depiction. Said it made him look older than his years. I feel his pain.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A man and his hat




Troy Brown left our company last year. I had the pleasure of attending a party in his memory at his beloved cabin in Taos Ski Valley last summer. I can say “pleasure” because it was an upbeat do hosted by his wife of more than fifty years. She and Troy were high school sweethearts may be even grammar school. Her name is Peggy so when Troy and I talked about our wives the terms we used the terms ‘my Peggy’ and ‘your Peggy.’

Troy was a fine watercolorist whose work reflected his architectural training and practice back in Texas.

The well-worn hat was his trademark

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The height of disinterest



Continuing the portrait series here's a ten year old shot of an unnamed model during a photo session at the state prison on the Turquoise Trail south of Santa Fe. It was taken under a wooden guard tower if memory serves. So, it was in open shade and with a single white reflector to provide fill. The young woman was wearing a monster hang over and was as interested as her face suggests. It comes across melancholy but was outright boredom.