16 June 2014

Overlander from Down Under in Barrio Viejo with Mark Shea

Overlander from Down Under in Tucson with Mark Shea 

Notes from the barrio.

Mark Shea  editing before the next leg of his journey across the USA.
Mark interviews Vanda J Pollard in Barrio Viejo, Tucson,AZ
Sometimes it takes a visitor to help you see your world anew and learn more about the place called home. The history of Barrio Viejo unfolds and takes ahold. I am learning even more about this compelling shrine just a few blocks away from where I live. It still captivates me just as it did the very first time friends Keith and Carli walked me through their world.

Yes it is hot in the desert this time of year. I've heard if you're a local you're not suppose to talk about the heat. I am still settling into new ground.  In our little pocket of our barrio Viejo my vecina(neighbor) Vanda Gerhart  hosted fellow digital story teller Mark Shea, an Aussie global explorer in his post Vegas recovery. As they say, what happened in Vegas stays in Vegas or you can check out the videos. They joined me for my 49th birthday Mexican dinner sharing the finer detailers of Greyhound travel and stories of far away lands; food;biology;history; Irish immigration;mesquite harvesting. The local history of the  El Tiraditio, the Shrine of the Unforgiven caught fire his imagination.Next thing I knew we were standing in a 100+ degrees  on revered ground making a video.


Mark  has since discovered in less than 24 hours more details about the event of the shrine and fleshes out the story far more than the plaque could ever explain. After our interview I thought of more things I would have like to say in less than two minutes.

The Tiradito still brings me great hope and comfort to many people who come to visit.He is perhaps like an old friend to share your troubles and stories to. For such a tragic event the shrine of the Unforgiven offers an eternal refuge of compassion for  people of all walks of life and beliefs.  People in Tucson gathered at the shrine after  the tragic shooting and miraculous recovery of Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords  made international headlines and contributed to the dialogue of the ongoing debate about gun control in America. 

Barrio Viejo poet Issak Kirkman at El Tiradito, The Shrine to the Unforgiven in Tucson, AZ.
The love and empathy felt here in this ancient altar of adobe comprises years of devotion. His Spirit and a cast of other Divine intermediaries, saints and personal totems create an ambiance of reflection that the veils between worlds isn't too far especially where love is concerned. Even in middle of the day I am blinded by such tender expressions of love and a much larger faith standing under the hot desert sun. The old adobe wall looks like it is weeping. St. Jude, St. Francis, Our Lady, the photos of family members, beloved strangers all are gathered in the notes, flowers and dust of the seasons. The salt of tears and the wax of so many candles over the years seep through the wall and seal the ground. How nice it was to meet a fellow traveler and share a part of Tucson that still captivates us with mystery.

In less than 48 hours we shared my 49th birthday dinner. We were both inspired to see Mark's social media process and each had our ah ha moments. He blew us away with his media savvy. In less than two hours a story idea was locked and loaded at Vanda's work table. He Shot it. Edited it. Compress it. Upload it and share it with his followers - bing bang boom!  Next thing I knew,  they were off  in the opposite direction of the setting sun heading east with Vanda at the helm to get him closer to his next destination. From the roadtrip notes looks like he's somewhere  in the middle of nowhere  in the wild west of New Mexico. Closer but still has further to go. Gracias Mark for sharing some of our local southwest history with your readers. Have a great odyssey gathering stories from across the USA! A Dios Bendiga!

Here's a song about our Barrio Viejo sung by Lalo Guerrero born and raised here.

Follow the journey : 

The Aussie Overlander Mark Shea Travel Blog: 

Stay tune for the interview with my vecina Vanda Gerhart and her work documenting international food traditions and cultures. 

Vanda J Pollard

For more information on Tucson's Barrio Viejo visit the Pilita Museum next door or have a meal at El Minuto Cafe.

03 April 2014


I often reflect on this essay Nothing Personal when I need a shot of faith to renew my conviction to see the world through a camera and aspire for mastery of words like Baldwin. I wonder what they were like in high school, what they discussed and they found each  other.

I wish everyone could read this essay to grasp the history of America as we repeat ourselves again. I am  inspired by their dedication to tell the truth in their own language. Each is strong unto itself but together the images and the words synthesis a stronger meaning.

I would love to hear the words  read over the photographs ; some one like Morgan Freeman.
It was great to discover these little videos looking at books and also find the original essay.
The book is a rare find these days.

James Baldwin with Richard Avedon's portraits: Nothing Personal 1964

"The light that's in your eyes reminds me of the skies that shine above us every day-so wrote a contemporary lover, out of God knows what agony, what hope, and what despair. But he saw the light in the eyes, which is the only light there is in the world, and honored it and trusted it; and will always be able to find it; since it is always there, waiting to be found. One discovers the light in darkness, that is what darkness is for; but everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light. It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found, there is a light. What the light reveals is danger, and what it demands is faith. " James Baldwin

A book designed to be seen like  a symphony is meant to be heard.  

30 March 2014

RAEchel Running Up Against the Wall portrait by Stefan Falke

 Border Artists Project  portraits by Stefan Falkes 
RAEchel Running Up Against the Wall

All photographs Stefan Falke. The work can be seen at The IMAS museum in McAllen, Texas and will go on show in Frankfurt, Germany on 7 May, accompanied by a book of the project published by Edition Faust.

I first became aware of Stefan Falke's project when I still lived in Mexico. We began our correspondence and eventually met last year when I first moved to Tucson. We traveled to Agua Prieta, Sonora where I have worked documenting projects for the Rancho Feliz Foundation over the past four years. The Wall has served as my background for my portraits.
The original wall has since been replaced with the costs varying from one million to twelve million dollars per mile. What IF this investment were put to education, healthcare for families and vets, and creating a humane solution to our immigration problem ? I stare up and down and look both ways and see not security but tragedy for miles. And really are we any more 'secure ' ? It doesn't make sense. 

Artist's and poets are the senses of our culture. They invoke our eyes and hearts to feel and become aware. Art inspires  us to share our stories and experiences..  It is with dedication Stefan has looked for the light in the dark politics and reality of the our current border wars. Families are divided as people seek economic stability. People continue to risk their lives by the thousands as the worlds they knew have been effected by the Central American wars of the 80s, NAFTA; Sadly human trafficking of women and girls continues and the  the current war on drugs  proves futile. Yet the colors and the strong messages written on the walls and voiced in strokes of light reflect the resilient Spirit and the hope of the dreamers  in spite the madness of war and walls. 

Stefan's work is a collaboration;  It is a  pictorial tapestry of portraits reflecting a collective vision. Moments captured at each mile along the way to tell us of why walls don't work. He honors  the voices of the artists as a conductor leads an orchestra.  There are traces of memory to be heard and lessons to be learned. Listen to the notes captured within the frame of his eye; Listen to what the walls, the earth, and what people are saying.

It has been really exciting to be apart of his Border Artists project. I am inspired by the work of the other artists involved. What we all have in common is sharing our response to our time in history. I look forward to seeing the exhibit and hope his work can be shown locally. 
I look forward to meeting some of the other artists and learn more myself about this
 in -between world we share. 

Please follow for updates on the upcoming book and exhibitions.
For more info please visit Stefan's website and follow him on FB. 

BBC -Stefan Falke-Border Artists

Raechel Running - Border Artist by Stefan Falke

A portrait in the series of Raechel in Agua Prieta, Sonora      by Stefan Falke

01 February 2014

Hijo Del Canon Del Cobre, In memory of Santiago James Barnaby, guide and friend

Hijo Del Canon Del Cobre, Son of the Copper Canyon

in memory of Santiago  James Barnaby July 22,1946-January 25,2014

They don't make many men like Santiago Barnaby anymore. He was a rare one. Rouge scholar, scientist, anthropologist, artist, philanthropic in his efforts  to help contribute and sustain the Raramuri culture of Chihuahua's Copper Canyon. Santiago was a great story teller, cultural ambassador and my guide on my collection trip for the Musical Instrument Museum in 2011.  We spent 10 days documenting the traditional musicians of the canyon.  Guide, great friend and God Father to many Tarahumara children. He helped build schools and sponsored ceremonies for the community. He was  kind, generous and a genuine culture keeper. In ancient times there were the Sacred Traders ; the Puchtecas, who travelled the sacred trade routes of the Americas and these same mountains and canons bringing their seeds of change, the gift of song and ceremonies for rain along the way.  People danced and shared their stories from other lands. Sharing the protocals of friendship spanning thousands of years.

A guide is a photographer’s best friend in the field. They help you see what is essential and important.   Their reputation, trust with the people offers invaluable insight to help us record our work. Santiago  helped me see and love the people of the canon. So much changes with each year; the media wars continue; people stopped visiting like they used too because of the fear. Still the ceremonies are offered; The sweet long note of a hand made violin lingers; the driving tuba and accordion and deep carino, the canto of the Soul of El Hijo Del Pueblo pumps  life through beating hearts. Yes my heart skipped a beat knowing a rare kind of man as Santiago, a modern Puchteca has left this world. We are all enriched all the more for the love he shared for a people, a time and a place.  He taught us  much.

Spencer and Emi Mac Callum brought him as one of my first visitors to Casa Azul in Pueblo Viejo my first spring living in Casas Grandes.  I fed him green chile and we sat around the table sharing stories.  He knew the people in my father and Bennett's Tarahumara photographs. He named the people of the portraits that hung on my  living room walls made in the early 80s. Faces I have known from archives of photographs.  In slides, in Black and white fiber prints in the darkroom, in color prints made  at Richard Jacksons's photo lab; RED, and dark strong faces. Fat baby cheeks. Colors and prayers.  

Santiago joined  the Spirit world on Sunday January 25, 2014 rising  like a phoenix to help light our way to understand better  and hold dear these people and way of life  and cherish what is rare ,beautiful and good. He passed away in Montana staying warm in the cold. I hope he is now free in the warm cosmic glow like the long ray of sun down the canyon. 

Thank you SEB my FB friend who shared these beautiful words; 
"I always have to remind myself that they haven't vanished, they just went Home earlier than I to a place where postcards come in the form of dreams. As Bobby says to Christina as he dies in the storm in the film The Perfect Storm: "There are no goodbyes, only Love."

Thank you Kathyrn for holding space to share our lost of our great compadre and for sharing the joy of meeting you all these years since Santiago introduced me to your writing  that cold winter day in Pueblo Viejo on his way to Tucson. 

it's all for you to see at the MIMs Here's a flickr set of our journey; 

The beautiful work of fellow photographer Richard Speedy and tribute to our compadre.

Santiago on our first leg of our Copper Canyon journey.