29 June 2008

Traveling to the Sacred Mountain

This land I love coming home to. The sight of the Sacred Mountain, The San Francisco Peaks, and a beautiful name in Navajo and Hopi that I wouldn't even know how to spell. The rain clouds form out of nothing on the far off horizon. It is comforting to
me always when the rain follows or leads me. North to South. South to North. Each way leads to home.

26 June 2008

Making movies on location

The boys are back in town. Film makers, Scott Peterson and Peter Biagi have returned to the valley and to whip up a little Thai food for Spencer and Emi. Wish I was there to sample it!! We met last summer when they began to work on this project. Interestingly enough the Front Line story on Juan Quezada was our mutual lead for our work in Casas Grandes.

Check out their short and give them some support!! The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz

The Finder and the Maker.Spencer MacCallum and Juan Quezada;
These men are STARS in my eyes. I am grateful to them both for sharing their passions and love for
this amazing landscape and cultural treasure. AY,AY,AY!! CHIHUAHUA!!!

Mama Tierra:Mayaguel

Mayahuel, Goddess and protector of the Maguey plant. Agave milk, the gift of Queen Xochi who gave Pulque to the people . In these times I think of how we need nurturing Mother's milk.

More links on the Aztec Gods and Goddesses:
MesoAmerican Goddesses:
The Gods of Ancient Mexico

I did my first painting in a long time. It was how I spent my birthday; good to feel charcoal in hand, and think about turning edges of dark and light. I had spent the day before LOOKing at agaves with Juan. their points, the designs imprinted from before unfolding. I will be exhibiting the painting at the Festival Nuevo Paquime at the Museum of Northern Cultures through out July.

I love how when following a line of inspiration how it unfolds as you learn more. My dear friend and bro, my mentor for over 25 years has always and continues to educate me and open my mind to new teachings and ideas about the mythic southwest and Mexico. When I told him about the passage in Frank Water's book, MYSTIC MEXICO, Sal referred me to the Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexio and the Maya.

23 June 2008

FESTIVAL NUEVO PAQUIME July 18 to 27, 2008

Festival Nueva Paquime July 18 to 27, 2008
Casas Grande Region Mexico
Celebrate the cultures of Northern Mexico during a ten day festival.
Spanish: Festivalnuevapaquime.com
English: Mata Ortiz Calendar.com

VIVA LA VIDA Art & Photography
Exhibition at Casa Azul July 22, 2008 Tuesday 5pm
with RAechel Running and artist friends of the
Center for Casas Grandes Studies:
Matiz Jewelry: Micky Vanderwagon and Ariel Renteria
Potters:Diego Valles & Antonio Nunez
Sculptor:Roberto Hernandez
A Collection of Chihuahuan and Mennonite Quilts
Mexican Furniture:

Please visit us on FLickr.com !! Center for Casas Grandes Studies & RMRunningphoto

21 June 2008

War and peace know no borders.

What is a balloon? What is a photograph? We make them, add our thoughts and wishes and let them go into the sky.....These images were from the Peace March of the local school in Casas Grandes in April just before I returned North. Spencer called me to let me know and I ran out of the house with my apron on and camera in hand barely making it as the children,teacheres and parents rounded the corner. An ocean of whiteness and beautiful brown faces; Everyone dressed in white; It was a one of the most beautiful acts for peace I ever witnessed. All the balloons were wishes for peace to return to our community.Our world. At a given moment all the balloons were either popped or released. A few wishes for a different world rose upward making a constellation of dots and disappeared into blue. When I feel overwhelmed with my thoughts on these issues I think about these children and the hope for a more peaceful future.

Sad but true I can not deny the truth of what's happening along the US|MEXICAN Border; I feel the weight of it in my community, the place that has become my heaven on earth, and is the place I tell people I've come to know the finest examples of how to be human beings; I am constantly in awe of the "Familias", the beauty, the love I see everyday; The trust given to me whether photographing or just being offered to hold a strangers beautiful baby; The way I love and feel for the people of my pueblo.

The world is being rocked by violence; still. The drug wars continue and the world still isn't safer or better after all these years of the War on Drugs; Good GOD! What are is happening? I have chosen to not photograph aspects of this WAR...because I want to show something different-that is LIFE affirming, beautiful, and not stereotypical. I do not want to bring attention to myself from the good bad guys, or the bad good guys; I have seen in these past few months more funerals in my town...the last one over a thousand people came and lined the street with cars and everyday people mourning the death of someone's beloved who was shot down. He came from my pueblo and was said to help many people; I can say that I saw he was loved greatly by the community. So I comfort those brothers, and young homies, and older sisters,and mothers, who do not understand this war...I can empathize with their loss; I offer only my consulations, a hug, a soft touch on the arm...Loss, and death is a universal emotion, whether violent, accidental or natural. We suffer in the living and are at the mercy of the unknown. I begin to ask myself do I photograph this now?? Is it my story to tell ? My reasons to avoid shooting it are obvious and yet it is essential; So when my dear friend Jason who helped me move to Casas Grandes last year sends me this link he stumbled across I had to pause and see my beloved world through another set of eyes; This is a powerful moving set of photographs like none other I've seen;I feel compelled to share the work and this aspect of the power and truth of photography and why we need courageous photographers who tell us these stories.

Seamus Murphy: Mexican Frontier town falls to Drug Lords

We live on; Life in Casas Grandes continues; We get news from those who come to visit, or who change their plans to stay away because Mexico is "dangerous" and people are afraid; Yet it is pastoral, it is a simple and good life I've come to know, and I have only encountered kindness....the rumors fly around; and partial stories unfold to much of our disbelief; I just know that once I pass the zone I am in the land that has captivated and inspired me; I am still in love with this country and the people here. I have avoided telling this part of the story. I think of all the images we're inundated with; are there really more people in the world who want to know what Britney Spears is wearing and her sad family life? I think of the Minutemen on the border, I think of men,fathers and sons crossing the desert for a job in the USA .I think of wildfires in California burning and polar bears dying; I think of all the money being spent to 'keep us safe" as more sky scrapers and indoor ski resorts are built in Dubai, and gas prices go up and up.... What in the helk IS Going ON????

So there are photographers and writers who hold a mirror and show us something more about ourselves and our world;
Why these images/stories aren't on the main yahoo page and Jessica Simpson and American Idol are, leaves me shaking my head in wonder. No wonder the world goes numb.

Photographers and writers are my heros because they inspire me to wake up ! To see the pain, the suffering, the beauty and the common threads between people; When you SEE truth how can you close your eyes?? Revisiting these photogrpahers work
give me courage to look deeper. Does the work of these amazing human beings make a difference in a world gone mad?? Does it matter? Do you stop taking photos or telling stories that are important? No. You go out and do your work; follow those lines that life leads you to; Where will the lines of my own work lead me? What will I see the next time I cross the borderlands?

Ojala Quiere y volver.... If GOD wants I will return.....

Susan Miesalas
James Nachtwey
award winning essay by Seamus Murphy: "AFGHANISTAN'S SEARCH FOR PEACE"

What do cowboys and photographers have in common? Cajones!!

Balls. Huevos. Cajones!!! Call them what you will but you got to have something akin to those gonads that give you the drive to do what you do. Balls are everywhere and I had to laugh and see for myself what kind of ball this other photographer Peter Yang actually had; There is was like a big oversized eye ball in his mouth; The money shot. What we do for a photograph....
I had never seen this part of ranch work; and I wondered what it would be like; what would my shot be? and how do I get it ?It's a wrestling match between men and animals. The irons are cooking, and the Vaqueros are dividing the cattle; the knife is sharpened, and the work begins; Strong men take down the calves and hold their legs and assess their sex; EMBRA!! MACHO!!
Female.Male!! The braying cattle, the smell of singed hair and flesh; the heat of the day coming on,dust rises and covers everything-we are all in the dirt, sweating from the heat; A little less than a hundred head of cattle for day one. Less than 40 the next day. There's a small quick cut above the scrotum, then the hand squeezes the pale flesh out through the open wound, and then pop! The dogs nip at the heels and steal the balls and are stacked on the fence; I feel proud of my picture of a mountain of balls on the fence.We'll have them for Sunday dinner. Makes one glad to be a photographer and not a calf.

How do we approach the classic, tried and true stories? What do we bring to the table to make a shot different? Stand out and tell the story? and what's even more amazing to me are the stories behind the story to getting the story......I so appreciate another's perspective; I learn so much and there is GREAT work out there. I look at the work of other photographers. Each has there perspective. I wonder do they ask the guys to dress up? or is it just the way it is. I notice ball caps with American logos taking the place of cowboy hats-I would rather have the line of a cowboy hat to fill my frame even if I curse the dark shadows under the brim...I fight for the eyes or try to make the darkness work. I work alone and can't imagine trying to light all of these places with a bank of lights....some times I wish I had a lovely assistant to help; so it's interesting to go at it alone. The boys are respectful and would treat me as a woman and have me sit up front; but I ask to ride in the back so I might see something different. I feel the wind, the dirt, and the smell of worn leather and the dogs; the Mexican radio, the silhouettes of Father and sons riding out and coming home.

National Geographic :Robb Kendrick: Beautiful portraits of Cowboy Culture
Robb Kendrick:The website
Adam Jahiel:Another GREAT photographer whose work I admire.

I have been learning a lot about my world through the blogs of others; and also am inspired to follow lines of work through the discourse on the web; This one was especially insightful and I was stoked that a magazine actually hired photographer Peter Yang for a sixteen day assignment. Someday I hope I can do work for TEXAS MONTHLY;The interview and the slideshow links are GREAT to learn what does go into the creativity and work.

SLIDESHOW: Peter Yang's photos for Texas Monthly
A PHOTOEDITOR: interview with Peter Yang

I sometimes wonder as I'm editing gigs upon gigs of images WHAT am I doing???? WHAT am I going to do with all these images?? WHO will be interested in them?? HOW do I keep on supporting my dream and work??? As I get deeper and deeper into the DOIng of the work the debt grows larger, and the proverbial question of work for money and to balance all of it looms at times in my mind....I am grateful for all I have experienced and somehow through the graciousness of family and supportive friends who believe in this work I have been able to continue to DO It....but sometimes I falter and wonder if a job at Walmart isn't around the corner as I try to figure out how to pay for the gas, the insurance, the bills....Maybe take a clue from my Mexican Photographer friends who go hawk prints at $3, $5 to the crowd. Are there people interested in my shots of balls??

The Earth and The Man:

JAMES AGEE wrote in 1936, "IF I could do it, I'd do no writing at all here. It would be photographs; the rest would be fragments of cloth, bits of cotton, lumps of earth, recordds of speech, pieces of wood and iron, phials of odors, plates of food and of excrement. Booksellers would consider it quite a novelity; critics would murmur, yes, but is it art; and I could trust a majority of you to use it as you would a parlor game. A piece of the body torn out by the roots might be more to the point."

I wish I could have you read the whole of this preamble out loud; it's about about eight pages; This book and these images echo over and over in my mind with the memory of my father's voice reading out loud to me; James Agee and Walker Evans did their body of work in the 36. Evans reflects on Agee twenty five years later after Agee's death. The photographer and the writer spent eight weeks photographing share croppers in Alabama for the Farm Security Adiministration. Fortune magazine never published the work and they sold only 600 books. It is truly a classic.

I travel south to north just like the rivers run and the ancient peoples who migrated through out this region of the Gran Chichimeca. I go to spend the night at the Hacienda Corralitos to photograph their grandson, Pedro in the 100 year old christening gown. Of course I get lost and off and on track navigating through the Mennonite fields; golden wheat stretching to the horizon; it is so quiet; the contrast between the gold and green, the smell of the wet in the dry desert. I can't recall ever looking at wheat; I watch it start to dance as the wind picks up; It's AMAZING! Keeping on track moving right along down the dirt road I recognize the turn to head towards the green of the Hacienda; but to my right I see a lone silhouette of a farmer tending the fields; I suck at fly by shots paparazzi style; I walk into a scene that defies time; I am a child standing in Bill Well's farmland when my dad would take my brother and I along on his photo shoots; I am Walker Evans and James Agee approaching the tenant farmers down in Alabama-what was it like to step out of their car and approach the people who would become some of the most amazing photographs of our time. I think of Agee's passage in Let Us All Now Praise Famous Men, about the descriptions of overalls...The lone man and I meet on the edge of the fieldis irrigating the fields; His name is Jacobo;2nd generation Mexican.His blue eyes are deeply etched from looking out across this land and into the wind and sun for a life time; He speaks only Spanish and old world German. his voice a deep baritone and laugh from within; I explain how I'd like to photograph and come again to learn more about farming and how I can work hard and that I have my ditch boots in the car;he thinks this is funny; he grew up with Bilo Wallace; I imagine picking cotton in the hot sun as a child. I wonder what it means to grow up here in this corner of the world.I think of the children with their families I photographed in the onion fields; The wind blows softly; The corn dances, the lines of rows darken perceptually as the water makes it's way.The irrigation ditch reflects the sky, a slice of blue cutting through the dark,brown,dry earth.

13 June 2008

St. Anthony Day LOVE>fear

One of the most beloved of saints, his images and statues are ubiquitous. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946, he is sometimes called "Evangelical Doctor". He is especially invoked for the recovery of things lost ("Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and cannot be found.").

June 13
book; bread; Infant Jesus; lily
animals; barrenness; Brazil; Beaumont, Texas; elderly people; faith in the Blessed Sacrament; Ferrazzano, Italy; fishermen; Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land; harvests; horses; Lisbon; lost articles; lower animals; mail; mariners; American Indians; Masbate, Philippines; Cavite, Philippines; Sibulan, Negros Oriental, Philippines; oppressed people; Padua, Italy; poor people; Portugal; pregnant women; sailors; seekers of lost articles; shipwrecks; starvation; sterility; swineherds; Tigua Indians; travel hostesses; travellers; watermen

it's San Antonio WEEK! a big birthday party for the Patron Saint of My Pueblo, Casas GRandes. A fair has made home in the cener of town, and there's alots of praying going on as the world is going crazy! I learnt the baby jesus was stolen a year ago most likely to someone with a collection of ancient saints that don't belong to them- the town is still in the throws of the effects of the changing of the guard of the drug cartels...the effects of the drug wars are in my backyard and it makes me sad as I sense the growing fear and uncertainty; WHAT to DO? who knows what's going on and what will happen???
; What will happen to this town , this world I love so much???

Fear has come here. How can I make it go away??? What if I died today because of a stray bullet from some drug war I'm not apart of ? My neighbor tells me to be careful...to not go out... but I will not live in fear.. by going out I watch the rains come. What are we suppose to do? Hide? Stop living? Stop engaging in LIfe itself? I could die in a car wreck anytime anywhere. Or have a stroke right on the spot...Anything can and will happen at anytime... That is what Bennett's death taught me...you are here one day and gone the next.... this is true and who can imagine what will be and when??

I had a profound moment on my third ride on the Wheel of Fortune last night as the storm clouds gathered in the valley and the smell of rain hung in the air offering reprieve from the heat; Around and around on the wheel of Fortune I went...the only place to get above and commune with the sky. A love song full of longing blasted out through the dark sky, the lights of the rides, the pink and dark sky looming...lightening in the distance; I didn't get it in a picture nor was I struck down as I sat at the top and felt tears well up behind my eyes. I feel I'm in a movie.

No. I will NOT live in fear. I am an artist. I signed up to show up not give up. I leave my pueblo tomarrow. It's always heart breaking to leave every time....so to fight my own feelings of doubt I can only think of riding the Reya De Fortuna! Let me see this valley as night falls. this song rising through the trees, Y VOLVER by LOS ANGELES NEGROS spins my yearning, I am dizzy with emotions, sorrow, hope, love...around and round we go....what if it were to all end with one stroke of lightening?? I question the faith of what I've seen. I remember this holy garden. All the grandmother's praying....Saint Anthony the finder of lost things, chino negros, of watermen, and infertile women....I send my deepest wishes out to all these spiritual helpers; Please help us find our peace, our tranquility, our common thread; The Dark Angels are singing. crooning to return again and again...... the rain begins to fall and I know that simple beauty and grace exist and this is what I must focus on. The Fortune Wheel turns. I still have a couple tickets left for one more ride . The carnie takes me to help me find the song I never want to forget....maybe a miracle will happen and sweet baby jesus will be returned.

Youtube: Angeles Negros Y Volvere

06 June 2008


TED.COM has opened a whole new worlds and wonderful concepts about this planet, and the people who are DOING something. As my dear friend Queen E , as I like to call her when she's in her recliner chair at home here with Spencer or at the Deponcudora, the unpucture-er- the place you go to fix the pinche holes in your tire... Ms Emi said matter of factly to me as I flailed through one disappointment after another," Might as well go out and DO something even if it's wrong!!"

It is like the story Gil who has a great example of Doing it. He and his brother started Rancho Feliz twenty years ago. He shared this story with me of crossing an impossible river and getting all worked up ; curious to see what the monk would do after falling and flailing himself he watched the same thing happen to monk who began only to laugh harder and more with each trial and tribulation. So we must laugh and remain light....As Nicci T, our fabulous body worker and cosmic cowgrrl in Flagtown once said on her answering machine; "remember Atttitude is everything so chose a good one and have a GREAT day!"

Seeing this little blip on TED.com offered aLOT of insight into the day and reminded me while I was flailing why life is amazing.... why we need to laugh, and keep it going. Here's to DOING it for all the right reasons!! So we make signs that most people will not read, but Que La VIDA !! sometimes the message still gets on through.



The Archeologists have arrived!! Upon their arrival the Profs were whipping up a whole lotta spaghetti !!! Can they cook!! The scene reminded me of a rivertrip meets the youth hostel amidst the trappings of the working laboratory; maps, boxes,bags,laptops, shards, tools, tents,shovels,trowels, and Lordisima knows what else is in their tool kits. What an experience it's going to be. Donated the orange parachute from Burning Man to help them out with Shade world; If they only knew. There is a group of archeologists working on a new site from the ground up.Michael Whalen, Paul Mennis, and Todd Pitezel will be working here with their students from the states and Mexico for the next couple months. I am so excited to learn about their work and see how the story unfolds; I went to the el Convento which was the site my dad's mentors worked on in the early 60's. I remember them still and to see how quickly the site has changed within fifty years is stunning. I imagine over and over this story told in these stones, rocks, adobe walls in kernals of corn. What do have to learn and what is our legacy to preserve for generations to come? What is a thousand, 1500 years? In five hundred, in five....
From little fragments there's a whole new world to comprehend.

We also went out with Carlos Hernandez and his father to Arroyo de Los Monos. My new friends Yvette and Nick were on their excellent life changing adventure to go live in San Miguel De Allende. The came for one night and stayed for three. Casas Grandes will forever be imprinted into their homecoming to Mexico. Each day an adventure!!! for Guide info please contact Carlos. He also works at the Museum of Northern Cultures. I always learn something from him.

Carlos Hernández Hdez.
Guia Kokopelli Tours
(045) 636 116 01 58

Also to further expand the concepts of archelolgy in the GRAN CHICHIMECA check out GRAND ARCHEOLOGY by my associate,
best friend and foto geek cohort Dawn Kish. She just went into surgery today to repair a broken hand while on assignment for Adventure Magazine. She still rocks!!! Check her out and give her a shout out while she repairs her wing.




Is It me or is it Mexico???

Self portrait at Arroyo De Los Monos. Casas Grandes,Mexico.


Check out yours! Love this guy's window on the world. Is it me or is it Mexico???

Gemini Horoscope for week of June 5, 2008
"The truth is always more interesting that your preconception of what it might be," says author Steven Levy. Journalists "should not have the stories written out in their heads before they report them. Preconceptions can blind you to the full, rich human reality that awaits you when you actually listen to your subjects and approach the material with an open mind." I think that's an excellent strategy to use even if you're not a journalist -- and especially for you right now, while you're in a phase when the healing shock of the new is available everywhere you go.

Speak the following lines out loud:
I love everything about me
I love my uncanny beauty and my bewildering pain
I love my hungry soul and my wounded longing
I love my flaws, my fears, and my scary frontiers

I will never forsake, betray, or deceive myself
I will always adore, forgive, and believe in myself
I will never refuse, abandon, or scorn myself
I will always amuse, delight, and redeem myself

May the Horse Be with You.

Wes Wallace calls to tell me there's a branding last weekend. We'll be by to pick you up in an hour. I pack frenetically as I was thinking I was having the day to edit all those Charro fotos...gotta go! He and his mom,Imelda come to Casa Azul. They're attending a funeral in the pueblo. There streets are full of cars. The border issues have come to all of our front doors. Still the land is beautiful and there is cattle to brand. Life continues on. Heaven and Hell. Time to cowboy up! The Corralitos Hacienda is one of the oldest in Northern Mexico. It once consisted of over a million acres. The father Bilo and his sons, Bilito and Wes carry on the ranching tradition. Morning starts out early with homemade everything; tortillas,beans, farm fresh eggs. hearty and filling. within and hour we are heading across the Mennonite farmlands, green turns to red,to brown. The valley endlessly full of Mesquite. A day of work begins. We gather horses and the boys go off to roundup the cattle. We meet back at the coral. I swear I get lost driving back the horse trailer; but one can only go so far til one hits a fence. Turning around, and climbing up on the roof I see dust waaaayyyy off in the distance and lots more mesquites. I went left and should have gone right. The silence of wind spellbounding. It is still. Flies in the air...the smell of morning before its hot. Can't put that in a photograph...but I take within myself to put into my photographs....I close my eyes and open them. I want to remember this land...breathe it within me....far and vast. Old world; New world. Today is the day! This is my second branding. We'll brand for two days; The cattle is driven up; over 120 head; 6 cowboys and me. Irons are in the fire, knives are sharpened; The sun rises hotter. The sound of breying heifers; the smell of burnt hair and flesh...the method to the madness. so this is where steaks come from....this is the real deal. Family, and good cowboys are hard to find. The nuts pile up on the fence; and I had said I wasn't a "horse photographer'....last year as Emi likes to tease me....now it's in my blood;