Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cuba's Gift

Victor "Cuba" Hernandez
I first introduced you to Victor Hernandez also known as Cuba in my January 29, 2011 post. Then last Friday I encountered him again at his campsite on the flank of a sheep strewn hillock across from San Antonio Mountain.  The second time was every bit as special.

Peggy and I and our son Garrett and his wife Michelle were exploring along US 285 north of Tres Piedras hoping for a decent photograph to declare itself. My expectations were along the lines of getting one keeper of a landscape for a show that Peggy and I have scheduled for May. Anything more would be gravy. 

Prophetically, just as our conversation had turned to my 2011 adventure with Cuba I turned east to the Taos Plateau. After half a mile we passed between two shallow hills with rocky spines and I spied a corrugated trailer with hundreds of grazing borregos just beyond. “It’s Cuba,” I shouted with total delight. I couldn’t have shown the timelessness of northern New Mexico any better. It was an absolute gift.

As we got close to the trailer a slightly hunched figure came out to greet us. My passengers were just a little apprehensive since Cuba was packing heat. I rolled down the window greet him while summoning my slightly improved Spanish to remind him that I had visited several years before, that I had photographed him with his dogs Daddy and Puppy and had mailed photographs of him and his perros to his patron, Alfonso Abeyta. His eyes lit up as he described the photographs as “grande.” They were, in point of fact, not so grande 8”x10"s but no matter.

Cuba and Daddy
I got out of the car for a proper handshake when he immediately showed me the weapon he was toting while describing its provenance in rich Spanish only detail. He told me that his meticulously maintained Mauser EspaƱa bolt action had once been used by Pancho Villa. The rifle was dated 1890 and if Victor says the Villistas used it they used it.

He proudly declared that he was seventy years old and said he would be camped with his sheep till February and then would herd them to the Abeyta spread just over the Colorado border. It was minus 15 in his neck of the woods last night. You get the picture.

The portrait up top was worth the price of admission.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Less is Less

In keeping with last week’s homage to the old and short, here’s the image that launched about a million photographs since October 2, 2003. This is the one that yanked me by the drawers into the digital age. I have to blame something.

Butternut Squash, Fryeburg, Maine

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dusty Reaches

It’s been a long while since I’ve plundered the archives for a blog image.  For the last year there’s been enough new material from my wanderings that deep research hasn't been needed. Occasionally, though, no fresh subject is clawing at the walls to get out. And sometimes, as is the case today, pressing matters namely moving Peggy into her new studio dictate brevity.

So here are a couple of still lifes from the dusty reaches of what's left of my memory. 

Sunflowers near Fort Garland, Colorado, 2010

Silvery leaves from the Huntington Museum in Pasadena, California , 2007

A dozen years ago when I returned to photography, a choice prompted by the digital revolution, my first meaningful portfolio was of still lifes which populated a category I referred to as Studies and Abstractions. It's a pleasure to revisit that very focussed kind of work today.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Simple Tastes

At the end of September I returned to Gaucin, the Andalusian pueblo blanco where Peggy and I spent 2-1/2 weeks back in April. Part of the impetus was to re-shoot lost images from our spring trip and another was to dine again at La Granada Divino, the wonderful restaurant led by Chef Neil Brown. Love the place. Neil’s farm and dock to table cuisine is simple and fresh with every flavor a perfect note. His unfussy food reminds me of Fred Muller's at El Meze here in Taos and Chris Schlesinger's at the venerable East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I learned more about cooking from Chris than anybody I worked with during my forty years in the restaurant business.

La Granada Divino

My Aussie mates on the rooftop terrace which boasts a view to Gibraltar and Morocco during daylight hours

The simplest of salads with Arugula, Figs and Manchego

Seabream fresh from the dock in Estepona yesterday

More figs of which I cannot get enough. This special order comped by Chef  Neil. That's a copa of cava top right

La Granada Divino was even better than I remembered but I detected an air of melancholy in Neil’s manner. We had become friends in the spring so while sipping a glass of wine at the end of the first evening’s dinner I asked him how he was doing and got a shrug of the shoulders, “It’s been okay. At least we’ve been busy.” 

Chef Neil Brown with the world's simplest kitchen in the background

He went on to ask, “You know what happened don’t you?” I replied, “No. What you do you mean?”

“We just did Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay.”

I expressed total surprise. “Your kitchen’s not a nightmare by any stretch of the imagination, Neil. That's a great little kitchen. How the hell did that happen?”

He said, “It was the owners’ idea. They thought the coverage would be good for business.” 

“Not so good for your self-esteem.” I thought to myself.

I told Neil, “I thought you owned the place.”

“No. I’m a working stiff. I’m just the chef and manager of the restaurant. I have a wife and two kids. I need to work.”

“How was it? Was he the asshole he seems to be on TV?” I asked.

“He was okay. I think he knew not to screw (not precisely the word he used) with me too much. But it was a real drill. First I spent four weeks with one of his producers in the kitchen and then a week with Gordon and a cast of thousands taping the show. Not a lot of fun. Then I wound up with his menu actually until this week. The show airs October 6 but I refuse to watch the thing. It’s the UK version of the show but you might be able to find it in the US.”

I tried to view the La Granada Divino episode without success. If any of you figure it out please let me know.

PS. Chris Schlesinger sold his extraordinary East Coast Grill in the spring of 2013 after twenty five years. It continues it's run under the able stewardship of Jason Heard. SI