Sunday, September 25, 2016

San Jose de Gracia

San Jose de Gracia in Las Trampas, NM rivals the better known San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos for its Spanish Colonial design and earthy beauty. I never miss the chance to photograph the historic church when traversing the High Road between Taos and Santa Fe.

It was built between 1761 and 1776 by 12 families from Santa Fe under the leadership of Jose de Arguello in the village whose full name is San Tomas del Rio de las Trampas. In English that’s Saint Thomas of the River of Traps.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

More of Monumental

Alain Comeau in North Conway, NH, 2002

Shortly after buying my Canon 1Ds in 2002 I started the series Monumental Heads. That’s the $8,000 11-megapixel piece of kit that lured me back into photography after a dozen years immersed in business endeavors, some successful, and the mid-80s committed to distance running and triathlons.

In the late spring of 2002 when I came back from a ski safari in France with Ian Cruickshank I took notice of Edward Weston’s theory of using the sky as a background and took it quite to heart. The first in series was of either Alain Comeau or John Snyder, both accomplished men with wide ranging talents.

On reflection I think the first victim was the very French man for all seasons, M. Comeau. Last I heard Alain was sailing the Caribbean with his latest squeeze.

He is followed by Mr. William Davis, the dean of Taos photographers and the original owner of ZZ Top’s beard.

William Davis, 2008

William Davis, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Waste Not Want Not: Memo to Self

Pondering 75 at 75

Looking at 75 through a long lens it seemed like it should be an epic event and a national holiday. Then as it drew near it shed its self-importance and became just another day albeit a good one. 75 after all is something everybody achieves if they live long enough. Big whoop. Can't take a lot of credit for it. Saturday I had a blue moment that I can only attribute to the recognition that I’ve lived three quarters of a century and that my kid is nearing 50. It’s enough to make an old man weep.

I got up this morning, chugged a cup of joe and slogged through an eight mile run, the kind you time with a calendar. Felt good all things considered. The osteoporosis symptomless. The full thickness cartilage loss unnoticeable. The back a little cranky but tolerable. Enjoyed brunch with a view and a Bloody Mary, the first in probably 20 years. Later a couple of steaks and monster bakers accompanied by a Reidel or three of 94-point vin rouge will complete the ensemble. The message: Enjoy each day to its fullest. Oui?

And I don’t want to lament the things I haven’t done but to see the event as a call to action and to waste no days. The list is long of things I want to do, see and experience and, as the wise man says, it’s not getting sooner.

The old bucket list needs some refinement, too. I have been tweaking the same old list for a decade. Those who know me can testify that publishing the sheep book The Last Shepherd has ranked high on the dreaded list for nearly two years. It has somehow lost momentum. Has it run its course or is it on hiatus? Then there’s that Spanish windmill that hasn't been properly lubricated. Son of a bitch squeals like a stuck pig. Come November it will be three years since I studied in Guatemala despite pledging to do study somewhere every year and practice daily till I become fluente. It will not be four. Then there's seeing a new (foreign) place each and every year. That hasn't happened since 2014. I'm bereft.

Live a year in a foreign country. Live in a city. Hike hut to hut across France. Rent a Italian villa with friends. Swim the Bosporus. Ride the Tour de France. Ski to the South Pole. Sail around the word. Do ten pull-ups. There's pipedream. I could go on.

25 at Camp Cayuga in the Adirondacks. That's my 180 pound self after a summer of playing 2 man Volleyball and teaching guitar. I  received my Army Reserve discharge during this lark and found myself on the buying end of all the Carling Black Label we could drink.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Gift

Edward Weston believed that the sky was the best possible backdrop for photographing the human head. This portrait employs that dictum.

Luis in Llano San Juan

I like to photograph people candidly or at least to have the images appear extemporaneous even when I’m in the victim’s face. Most people can’t ignore the photographer so their portraits look posed or awkward. That’s even true with rich folks and celebrities who should know it and can afford better. Luis on the other hand went about his business when I said “Forget I’m here” and I was able to capture his expressive face in a couple of minutes. It helped that he was having an animated conversation by my cohorts Steve Bundy and John Farnsworth. Having the subject interact with somebody else is a very useful device.

He began talking about Viet Nam from the jump. Seeing combat in that theater of the absurd seems to have colored his life like nothing else. “You don’t want to mess with a Vietnam vet he told us.” The implication being that if you survived that hell hole you’re one tough dude. He tells a story of a captured Viet Cong who was going to be flown out by helicopter along with Luis’s company commander when a grunt from the squad “blew his brains out” saying “He doesn’t deserve to ride with our captain.”

Luis says he had the next to last number in the draft and deployed to Viet Nam. When he returned to the U.S. he and his fellow soldiers were greeted with derision and hostility. “Didn’t they know It wasn’t our choice to go? Did you know that more hispanos served per capita than any other ethnic group?” he asked. John Farnsworth added that “More suffered and died in the Bataan Death March, too."

Joining the Army Reserve in 1960 and discharged in 1966 I missed Viet Nam and am happy to say so. Too young for Korea. Too old for Viet Nam. It’s a gift.