Sunday, March 06, 2022

The Rancher, the Poet and the Students

 “Hi Steve. This is Aaron Abeyta. I only call when I need a favor.”

Brothers Aaron and Andrew Abeyta manning the chute during shearing.
Patriarch Alfonzo Abeyta

True enough. The last time he needed a favor it was photographs to complement an article he was writing for High Country News. It was the gripping true tale of 12-year-old Alfonzo Abeyta’s survival while tending the sheep with his father in a September blizzard on Brazos Cliffs. Alfonzo, now 84, is Aaron’s father and the granite figure in Los Abeyta’s ranching history in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. Aaron’s story about his father and his grandfather in the 1940s epitomizes the grit and tenacity of a life from the land. That my images complemented his epic story was a pleasure and an honor. 

A man of many hats, Aaron Abeyta is the Director of Poetry Concentration at Western State University in Gunnison, CO, was a long-time professor at Adams State University in Alamosa and is the mayor of Antonito, his family home. More recently he and his wife founded a school in Alamosa.

Last week he asked if I would mentor two seniors who will graduate in May. He explained that Angelina and Samantha are interested in careers in photography and that he thought might mentor them. 

I am excited and a bit nervous about guiding Angie and Sam through the sea of photographic pursuits and studies. I worry that Aaron may think I'm more accomplished and knowledgeable than I am. Yet, after some sixty years of photographing with artistic intent you’d hope I’d have something to share.

So, on Thursday, March 31 I’ll start mentoring Angelina and Samantha in the bold and fast-moving world of photography.

I’m giving a lot of thought to the kind of direction that would help Angie and Sam. According to Aaron, they both have interest in portraiture. And they have asked specifically about lighting and posing. You don’t see a lot of it from me, but portraits are my guilty pleasure and it’s what I’d do if I had to make a living at photography. Either that or photojournalism, architecture, landscapes or still life. Oh, or travel, lifestyle, or sports.

I do have a professional lighting kit in Peggy’s studio. I guess I could re-learn how to use it.

Aaron is a fan of street photography. Me, too. To that end, he has referred my mentees to the street photographer Vivian Maier who worked as a nanny while she photographed anonymously in Chicago, NYC and around the world for four decades. She wasn't discovered till after she died which speaks to the legion of fine photographers who go unnoticed. I have offered Margaret Bourke-White and Dorothea Lange, two towering Depression era photographers as reference points. More recommendations will follow.

Angelina owns a camera. Samantha does not. Both photograph with a smart phone. The smart phone is an extraordinary tool. But I want them to have ‘real’ cameras with manual controls so they can learn the theory and mechanics of photography. With that in mind, I shipped an older Sony mirrorless camera to Connecticut for repairs on Friday. I hope to have it before our sessions begin. 

Otherwise, be very afraid. I'll be at your door begging for a loaner

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Kudos for unraveling the ghosts in the machine of auto-sending your blog. It arrived this morning, right on time. Second, what a gift of "only call when they need you" Aaron to be able to mentor Angelina and Samantha in photography. I have full confidence you will lead them to find their own loves and joys in the field,, and 60 years of experience will give them a rich combination of your many skills. I agree about the basics of shooting with a camera first. Smart phones are great tools but shooting images with them does not provide the background of basic settings and how they work. Nothing like knowing the basic functions of a camera and lens - aperture and shutter speed, depth of field, and focus - to complement the camera on a phone. They'll probably take some frustratingly great photographs whatever they use. Being consistent and doing it every day is what will make them photographers in earnest. It will be fun. Have at it, Esteban. I look forward to seeing results here!