Sunday, July 27, 2014

The horse I rode in on

Seems like the only photographs I take are ones from trips and almost never from Taos. And that over the last couple of years I’ve been shooting for the blog and not for the “art.” That’s neither good nor bad just is. And because I’ve been making images to support a weekly byline, ones that are more or less photojournalistic I’ve neglected the art for art’s sake. Certainly I want to believe that the odd photograph made in recent times could leap from journal to art but that hasn’t been the mission.
It’s been a long while since I’ve had to dig into my archives to find images to post. Today I did that and in the process of looking at the hundred or so photographs in my folder of potential victims I clicked on a couple of moldy oldies that feel, at least to me, like the stuff I used to do, ones that are freestanding artistic efforts whose grand moment would be as framed prints on a gallery wall somewhere.

And, speaking of prints, I don’t anymore.  Was a time when the artistic effort wasn’t complete until I held a fully massaged print on rag paper in my hot mitts.

In that spirit I have just printed these little numbers to prove to myself that I can still produce a so-called fine art print.  It’s liberating on some level, decidedly more personal and tells me that I should do more printing and I should photograph with printing in mind.

Both of these are from Ghost Ranch or just south of same. Thanks for asking.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Urban Geometry

Visiting a real city is a treat if for no other reason than the zooming geometry of metal and glass piercing the sky.  The competing angles of adjacent buildings from different eras vying for air space in the blue yonder offer up unending juxtapositions such as these from Atlanta Midtown last weekend.


Atlanta, as all big cities, is full of neighborhoods like upscale Midtown and Buckhead to its north. Atlanta Five Points, Grants Park and East Atlanta were new to me and, thanks to my guide Garrett Immel whose sensibilities are eerily similar, have been added to a growing list of locales that demand a closer look very soon. More to come.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

The rise and fall of Charles Bent

As I started back to Taos from the Amache Camp in Granada I debated the merits of taking the most direct route or a slight detour to Old Bent’s Fort near La Junta, Colorado.  Like Amache, Bent’s Fort had been on my shot list for a few years and since I was so near I tacked northwest to visit the fort which was built in 1833 as the major trading post on the mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail and that lasted a scant sixteen years. That’s a lot of fort for such a short lifespan given its importance during our nation’s Westward Ho moment.

William and Charles Bent built the massive fort on the banks of the Arkansas River and it became the trading hub of an empire stretching from Kansas City to The Rockies and from the Platte River to Santa Fe. At Bent’s trappers peacefully traded buffalo robes with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe as the Bents supplied travelers, explorers and the US Army with food, water and repairs on the rugged and remote Santa Fe Trail.

In 1846 Bent’s Fort was the staging area for General Stephen Watts Kearny’s Army of the West which drove Mexico out of New Mexico.  Kearny named Charles Bent governor of the newly established New Mexico territory and, in a Taos related piece of history, Bent was shot, scalped alive and killed by Pueblo and Mexican attackers in 1847.
While the 24 room adobe fort is impressive, it’s the architectural details and human artifacting that drew me.

Old Bent’s Fort is actually quite new having been reconstructed by the National Park Service in 1976.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

Blind Injustice

Amache 1943

Last year I wrote extensively about the Japanese Relocation Camps built just after Pearl Harbor but had visited just two, Topaz near Delta, Utah and Manzanar outside of Lone Pine, California. Then two weeks ago I made my way to the Amache Camp in Colorado. Situated near the Kansas border just off US 50 in Granada the sprawling camp once housed 7,500 internees and was, at its peak the tenth largest town in the state. Walking through fields of dust, sage and cactus I tried to imagine the feelings that Japanese families must have felt to have been uprooted from their homes in California, mostly near Los Angeles, and delivered to an arid patch of dirt where the winds blew hard and furious and their homes for the next three years were to be twelve to the block tar paper and plywood housing units without running water.
Facing west

Barracks Foundation

When the prisoners, is any other term more apt? , arrived they found a camp just partially built and had to complete construction themselves. The WRA, War Relocation Authority, knew full well that the camp was not ready for occupancy but was unwilling to delay the relocation even a single day so strong was anti-Japanese sentiment in America and at the top levels of the authority. Its head, Lieutenant General J.L. Dewitt, was an ardent racist on his best day.

On June 39, 1942 the first 212 internees, these from California’s Central Valley, arrived at Amache. The mostly male contingent was selected for its diverse skills as artisans, stenographers, clerks, cooks and other specialties that would help prepare the camp for settlement.  When they arrived only two blocks of barracks, one mess hall and one latrine had been completed. At its full occupancy the camp had 550 buildings and by October 1942 housed 7,567 prisoners.

The original 25,000 water tank which was found on a nearby farm and reassembled in 2012.

Subsidiary tank, one of four.

The original pump house still in use.

This is for your own good.
Most western governors were adamantly against having relocation camps in their states.  Only Colorado governor Ralph L. Carr, a Republican for Pete's sake, saw the Japanese relocation policy as the tragic miscarriage of justice that it was and actually welcomed the Japanese Americans to his state.

He stated, “This is a difficult time for all Japanese speaking people.  We must work together for the preservation of our American system and the continuation of our theory of universal brotherhood…If we do not extend humanity’s kindness and understanding, if we deny them the protection of the Bill of Rights, if we say that they must be denied the privilege of living in the 48 states without hearing or charge of misconduct, then we are tearing down the whole American system.” Further, he said that “hosting the detainees is a civic responsibility.” They don’t make ‘em like Ralph Carr anymore.
Carr’s vocal support for the Japanese was, of course, highly controversial and he was defeated in his bid for the US Senate in 1942. He had retired from public life but decided to run for governor again in 1950. He died a month before the election. 

Soon after his death, Coloradans started to understand that his principled stand had been right, that there been zero cases of spying or espionage in the Japanese American community.

Ralph Carr is remembered as a person of rare humanity, someone who stood up for the rights of others even when that stand cost him his political career.  This honorable man is memorialized with a statue in Denver’s Sakura Square and the new Ralph Carr Judicial Center that houses the Colorado Supreme Court.

In 1999, the Denver Post named him Colorado’s “Citizen of the Century.”

Take time to click on the images to see them full size.  You've got to read the sign in the last one.