Southwest Colorado 10-29 'til 11-1

Photographing a deer hunt outside of Lamar, Colorado (that's rural southwest on the Oklahoma border) until November 1st.  For the uninitiated, that means no cell or internet service.  Will be checking voicemail at 8am, 12pm and 6pm MST.


Slowing Unto Stopping

[I've been stuck with writer's block for the better part of the last month, trying to piece together something on the occasion of my grandma's death.  It's not that there's been a shortage of things to say, rather that the experience has significance beyond losing a loved one.  Figuring out which aspect of that experience represents the greater forest of trees seems like a undertaking that will write itself when the time is right.  Of all the things wrapped into the dying and death of my grandma, the smaller realities --the idea of entropy, the grace of slowing unto stopping --is something that is immediately accessible.  I'm no Yeats in my ability to talk with any deeper eloquence about entropy and I definitely can't come close to Eliot's masterpiece on aging, but her passing has left me with a few certainties that I feel like I can discuss.  The photographs --images of the Slaby farmstead, the drive back to my father's childhood home on the rural Kansas-Nebraska border, my grandmother's burial, cleaning the house following the funeral --is, for me, a record of what it means to get older, to relinquish things that are gone, and to see my family's history in the context of my own, separate life. It is, in a sense, what Adrienne Rich describes as "diving into the wreck."]


When I'm old I'll walk like this:
feet crooked like fork tines
pegging the wood floor.


Stepping and then stopping
                         to breathe.


Health For U.S. News & World Report

Not the most glamourous piece of real-estate in the magazine (as you can see below, a wee little picture drowning in a sea of words), but I definitely had one of the best conversations in the last couple weeks with the subject of the shoot, Helen Garcia, one of my neighbors who lives just steps from my house.  Kind of an everyday hero in the sense that she volunteers massive amounts of time for the local middle and high schools working on health-related issues (and other more academic causes), she's mother to several adult children, grandmother to several more, and an adopted grandma to what seemed like every kid I met in the course of my day with her.  Definitely one of the more positive forces in the neighborhood.  

...And a huge thanks to the editors at USNWR for helping me work around a little scheduling mishap on account of an unopened jury summons.  Even though the Denver summons look like some kind of ridiculous sweepstakes scam, they, um, aren't.  So cheers to unpaid parking tickets, stepping on rakes, and other more exciting civic responsibilities.  


Frank the Tank

Fire seems to be the only thing that ever brings me to Nevada.  I travelled there for the first time with my job as an 18 year-old wildland firefighter on a hotshot crew based out of Arizona.  The trip repeated itself with each passing fire season until my departure from that line of work in late 2003.  

After a hiatus, fire again brought me back to Nevada this weekend, returning for the wedding of my old friend and fellow firefighter Frank Machler.  In the years since I lived with him in Great Falls, Montana (which, ironically, is neither great nor does it have any falls) Frank has gone on to accept work outside of Carson City, Nevada and, in a move that will undoubtedly strike fear into the hearts of evolutionists everywhere, met his bride-to-be and tied the knot over the weekend.

Frank, for those that don't have the distinct honor of knowing him, is one of the most fiercely positive people that I know and a real privilege to have as a friend.  In spite of some significant personal tragedy in recent years, his approach to life has always been upbeat and honest.  So it came as no surprise when Frank took a suddenly sincere tone after the wedding to tell me that Cassandra, his bride, is one in a million.  I answered him with a joke, telling Frank that there are billions of people in the world so one-in-a million might not be that complimentary.  Ok.  One in ten million, he says.  Still, there's 6.7 billion people on the planet, I say, trying to keep the joke moving.  "I gotta tell you, I wouldn't have too much faith in humanity if there weren't more out there like her," Frank replies.

I gotta say that Cassandra's got herself a one-in-ten-million, too.

Best of luck to you both.

The groom and his brother, Air Force Sergeant Seth Machler, changing after the reception in the Genoa, Nevada firehouse.  Seth, Frank's younger brother, put me up in his apartment for several weeks, sight unseen, when I moved to Washington, DC in 2006.  "Any friend of my brother's is a friend of mine," I recall him saying on the telephone.  
The wedding party following the ceremony.  
Frank and Cassandra

A Couple More

My old boss, former hotshot superintendent Chris Theisen, during a 34 minute speakerphone prank call to another old coworker and friend who could not attend the wedding on account of a back injury.  His injury, among other much more serious complications, reportedly sends shooting "lightning-like" pain through his buttocks whenever he gets angry.  This little tidbit, as you can probably guess, makes for excellent prank call fodder.
Frank and Cassandra cutting their congratulatory cake following the rehearsal dinner.
Frank and neice, Teagan Killorn.


Polaroid Wedding

Frank in the Genoa Firehouse following his wedding.
Air Force Sergeant and Iraq veteran Seth Machler and neice Teagan Killorn.
Brothers Seth and Jordan Machler.

Seth and a fan from the bride's side.

Kevin German Talks Luceo

Woke up this morning to find Kevin German's latest blog entry about Luceo Images in my inbox.  This December marks one year since we flew to Atlanta, camped on David Walter Banks' apartment floor (literally), and put together our plan for what Kevin describes as: 

"[A] collective formed by like-minded, passionate photographers that simply wish to have a greater voice by banding and branding together. Our collective could not serve as a representation of our work ... in fact, it is quite the opposite. It is the photographer who represents the collective. Actively promoting and searching out new clients ... not just for themselves, but for the other group members as well. When one of us do[es] well, we all do well."
Kevin's post also draws from an interview given by group provocateur David Walter Banks on Aphotoeditor.com explaining his enthusiasm and belief that the photographer lone-wolf mentality is becoming a harmful proposition in an increasingly saturated industry.  Banks elaborates:
“The other reason for all this is our belief in helping each other out and being open in the photo industry rather than the one-for-all mentality that is so engrained. We can all work together to edit new projects, work up budgets, make pitches and generally have power in numbers.”

As I finalize my travel preparations for Luceo's second annual meeting coming up in New York, I am pleasantly surprised by the developments and enthusiasm in our group over recent months.  This year, though, I'm not sleeping on the floor.  

David Walter Banks
Kevin German (who came out in spite of being sick as death squared)
Kendrick "Claudia" Brinson
Tim Lytvinenko (on his damn Iphone)

Not pictured: Matt Eich & Chip Litherland.


Telegraph from Unlikely Reno

HELP [stop]

BLUE HAIR [stop]


Joe Plumber

Started the night off here (pictured above, planted on the couch with friends and long-term documentary subjects Tripp Wallin and Zach Spencer) watching what could be the most patronizing amalgamation of soundbites in the last 48 hours of television history.  You know, the whole 'Joe Plumber' exchange in which we are introduced to "the nation's everyman." Apparently the protagonist of this little fairy tale is concerned about his taxpaying role as an average, ordinary, regular guy earning the meager scrap wage of a quarter million dollars annually. (awesome work on the 'everyman' verbage there, Fox News)

For anyone who missed that --the figure, again --is a quarter million bucks.  And that number, according to the McCain camp, sits firmly among the rolls of the American middle class.

So, I guess, in an era where '30 is the new 20' it must also follow that $250,000 is the new $35,000... and $35,000 is the new $12,000 and so on.  

The thing about politics is that these snarky little soundbites --the way the public gets to peek through the periscope from which our politicians look back at us --leave a lot of room for cynicism.  For me, it's a tough to walk the tightrope over that alligator pit, trying to keep in mind that the promise that I'm looking for is not necessarily about the bottom line on my income taxes, but rather how that number translates back into the living, breathing people of a stripe a little more ordinary than our quarter million dollar plumber.


Thankfully, where the politicians fall off the sincerity wagon, it's always nice to be able to count on the cultural front to pick up those pieces and put them back in their rightful places.  Read a good interview in The Onion yesterday with David Byrne in which he talked about the role of sincerity in music (and, in my opinion, art, literature, culture, etc.)  He says: 
"When you see or hear a singer or a performer who has this incredible charismatic gift or this incredible voice --who could sing the phonebook and make you cry --they often fall into performing or recording substandard material, because it's so easy for them to pull it off.  Whereas somebody who has to try harder, and you can sense that in their performance, you kind of believe it a little bit more."
For anyone who doesn't like to read, you can see Bill Hicks express this same idea (with a little more, um, clarity) here.  Townes Van Zandt plays it here.  The obscure and fantastic Friends Forever gang do it here.  

Or you could have just gone to the show last night at Denver's Glob and watched four of the most intense and honest sets that have been played to an audience of 15 (and, no doubt would have played the same to an empty room).   Unlike politics, the currency of culture is real people and the value of each denomination is measured in terms of sincerity, honesty, congruency between person and art, the way we want to believe of the artist that the product they create is born of a compulsion, of something greater than themselves --that the result is honest because it couldn't have happened any other way.  I guess, when it's all said and done, we want to believe that when a tree falls in the woods, and there is nobody around to hear it, that it still makes a noise.  

And after last night, I'm quite certain that it does.

Photographer and musician, Sean Chisholm, of experimental noise band, Vampire Pussy, setting up for his show.  (Also pictured above during his set)
The Judy Experience.  Saxophone-playing-goat-mask-wearing-multimedia show.


Back At It

Been away from my blog on account of work, writer's block, and an overwhelming body of photos that I've been editing through since the conventions.  Should be back to regular posting for the near future.  

The 37th Frame

Glad to return home today to find an email from Pete Marovich about some old work from Mexico on the APhotoADay Blog posted under the essays section about four years ago.  Marovich reps that work along with a daily serving of new and inspiring imagery from a broad cross-section of photographers on his blog dedicated to that purpose.  See for yourself at The 37th Frame.  

Polaroid Odds and Ends

In case it's not already clear, for about the last year I've been carrying around one of my old Polaroid Land Cameras as my, um --please don't laugh --second camera body.  The analogue features of the Polaroid really force a serious slow-down in the approach to shooting and, as a result, lends itself to impromptu portraiture.  Like most of the long-term stuff I'm working on, the start and finish of the Polaroid project is a little bit grey and will probably only really end when the last box of pack film rolls off Fuji's assembly line.  Anyhow, these frames are all side-notes to the TIME shoot featured below, people that I met wandering around Arapahoe County, Colorado. 

(Above: John "30" Werner, "Freedom," a seven year-old ball python, and Veronica Sanchez pictured near their home in Aurora, Colo.)
Tanner Means, 9, of Denver and his dirt bike in Byers, Colo.

Democratic congressional candidate Hank Eng at his campaign headquarters in Littleton, Colorado.  Eng, the son of Chinese immigrants, is a self-described moderate Democrat.  He is running in a historically conservative district against Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman for a seat vacated by longtime conservative, anti-immigrant Congressman Tom Tancredo.   

TIME Campaign Feature

Had another fun assignment for TIME that played out like a three day photographic scavenger hunt.  Started with a short-list of things the magazine was looking for and took to driving around one of Colorado's largest counties, putting in a couple 16-hour days exploring and photographing.  Thrilled with the magazine's choice of pictures and found their hands-off approach to something as thematic and abstract as the electorate of an entire county a welcome and refreshing challenge.

The Pictures

Members of the Sheridan High School football team take a break during half-time.  Sheridan, a small municipality on the most western end of Arapahoe County, shares borders with Denver and is 33% Latino, sharing similar demographics with the state capital, a historically liberal area in a mostly red state.
Owners Yaa Asieduwaa and Peter Dwowoh at the Makola African Market in Aurora Colorado.  The market has been a fixture of the neighborhood for over a decade and serves a largely immigrant clientele. 
Betty Englebrecht plays multiple Bingo cards at the weekly game held at the American Legion hall in Byers, Colorado.  The hall sees between 20 and 70 residents each week from surrounding communities for the game.  
Savanna, Koby, and Tanner Means in rural Byers, Colorado.  Although property values in the Denver metropolitan area have skyrocketed in recent decades, the economic situation in eastern Colorado remains subdued.  Arapahoe County is one of the most populous counties in the United States, though it also encompasses a large swath of rural, eastern Colorado.

The Extras

The city lights of Aurora, Arapahoe County's largest and most populous municipality, reflect off low clouds hugging the plains east of the city.  
A nearly-completed house marks the furthest edge of eastern development on the fringes of Aurora, Colorado.  Aurora is Arapahoe County's largest and most populous municipality and is currently experiencing a construction boom.
Crista Laughlin shows a photograph of her 18 year-old daughter who recently completed basic training in the U.S. Navy.  She is flanked by Patriot Guard Riders "Sparky" Blanks and "Sarge" Knight at a home in Aurora, Colorado.  
Elvis Gallego, an Elvis impersonator, McCain supporter, and postal worker, sits for a portrait in his home near downtown Littleton, Colorado.  Gallegos initially backed Clinton before switching to McCain fearing Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential Nominee, lacked the requisite experience for the presidency.