February 24, 2013 Cashing In On Rich Museum Experiences
New Mexico Magazine just hired me to create a feature on three of northeastern New Mexico's museums for the July 2013 issue. Friday I'll visit and photograph Folsom Museum and Clayton's Herzstein Memorial Museum, adding stories and images to those I have from past visits. Yesterday I did the same at Raton Museum, gathering new notes and photos to add to the many I've gotten on past visits.
Speaking of notes, one display I'd not seen before is the $20 bill minted right here in Raton. It's a fascinating story (click the image to enlarge and read the accompanying text), though I can't help but wonder whether there was a relationship between letting a Raton bank print its own money and the stock market crash that happened in October of that year. Just sayin'.
My favorite wide-view photo is this one that includes local ranch cattle brands, cattle horns, clothing and saddle, a Dawson coal car, and in the background a long line of remarkable paintings by artists of Raton, Taos, and Santa Fe.
Upstairs I enjoyed this impressive collection of hand-painted retablos, small religious paintings on various materials. From outside on the street, it's impossible to guess the riches on display inside, or how huge this small-town museum is. The photo above shows about one third of the first floor, and there's another floor of displays up the stairs...or up the elevator. Beautifully maintained by curator Roger Sanchez (he was preparing to oil the hardwood floors yesterday), you won't find anything like the Raton Musuem in any big city, and anywhere else for that matter.
I found many paintings to love, but this one most fascinated me, "First Mail Crossing Raton Pass," a 1926 oil painting by Joseph A. Fleck. This view is just a detail, the lower right corner -- I'll probably submit a wider view to the magazine -- but I love the style, the content, and the juxtaposition of the painting beside an early local telephone switchboard. The museum is filled with smile-inducing surprises like this. The collection of paintings is under-appreciated, with several early Raton painters represented alongside giants of Taos and Santa Fe art history. I'm looking forward to going back for more before I write the manuscript for New Mexico Magazine's upcoming feature.
February 6, 2013 Hunt No Further
The Best Band I've Never Heard Of Award goes to The Hunts, a seasoned touring group made up of nine members of a single Chesapeake, Virginia, family that melted last night's Shuler Theater audience into giddy delight. They did it with their opening song and sustained the joys through two short sets that left no one feeling shortchanged. When God was distributing talent, his vehicle must have stalled over the Hunt house; they all look so truly happy with what they've got that they might have just won the lottery.
The Celtic-influenced family string band passed around guitars and fiddles, a mandolin, a banjo, and a ukelele, augmented by a keyboard, a drum kit, and hand drums and other percussion, including pounding dance steps and drum sticks on the stage floor. Their greatest strength, though, was their infectiously-arranged original songs that sound like no one and nothing I've heard. I've made up for that today: their 2012 album We Were Young is the only music I've played all day. I've stopped the CD several times, but the songs' hooks keep playing in a loop in my head, like waves lifting the sea, amazing.
The group has been touring for ten years and last came through New Mexico five years ago. (They're in Gallup tonight, traveling the country in an RV big enough to sleep ten.) Mother and father keep a low profile in the background playing fiddle and guitars, respectively, while the "kids" -- their current ages range from 14 to 23 -- charm and bedazzle up front. The first born were twin girls, Jessi then Jenni, but they were followed by a string of boys. All are multi-instrumentalists and all contribute to the group's songwriting. If that's not enough, they're all impossibly attractive and fetching, melting more than a few hearts last night, hearts of people who, like me, hope The Hunts won't wait five years before making a third trip to New Mexico.
February 3, 2013 Homework
This is what a homework assignment looks like in 2013. I put the assignment on the board as I've always done. Rather than do the tedious work of actually writing down the assignment, the students come to the front of the room with their smart phones to photograph the assignment. They return to their desks where some go so far as to photograph the assigned pages in the textbook so they won't have to carry the heavy book all the way home. Actually, this photo straddles the line between present and past: modern teachers post the assignments electronically, and the students don't need to photograph them, but my poor students are still having to cope with a teacher who is old school.
January 20, 2013 Pencil, Paper, Guitar
Dino Cornay is renowned in my neck of the woods for his remarkable skill with a pencil. His meticulously-drawn Western images of horses and the people who love them has made him a comfortable living for thirty years. I spent yesterday afternoon with Dino at his home in Folsom in the first of two interview and photo sessions for an upcoming feature in Western Horseman magazine.
This morning I processed the photos, excited with the results. Our second session will be icing on the cake, adding horses and Dino's dad and daughter to the mix.
The interview went as well as the photography and my next pleasant task is to process and organize my notes. I have some great quotes to work with and can already see the article taking shape. This work doesn't always go so well so quickly!
Although Dino says God granted him greater gifts with a pencil than with a flat pick, he's always been as passionate about playing his guitar as he has been about his artwork. Of his country dance gigs with Colfax Reunion, he says, "Playing in bands is getting paid to have fun.
But what's getting him into Western Horseman is his drawing. I enjoyed learning about his methods and trying to illustrate them through photography. His process starts with his Nikon camera to produce a reference image, although he and his pencils do far more than merely reproduce his photographs. Take a look at Dino's website -- you'll be impressed.
It's a fun process, immersing myself in someone else's story until I know how to tell it myself in words and photographs. I can already tell this is going to be a good one.
January 14, 2013 What's On Your Mind
I'm old enough to remember The Amazing Kreskin and all the old TV shows where he plied his trade back when I was a kid -- the variety shows of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Steve Allen and others. (Growing up in LA, I even saw the Steve Allen show once as part of the studio audience. I did the same with the Bozo the Clown show.) So when Kreskin gave an impressive performance at Raton's Shuler Theater last night, I knew exactly whom he was talking about when he peppered his stories with names such as Buddy Hackett, Joey Bishop, Jack Parr, and Phyllis Diller. And I remembered Kreskin himself pretty well, though I hadn't seen him in decades. He's aging well. His show was entertaining enough that three hours passed without a break and without my ever looking at my watch.
Kreskin bills himself as a "mentalist," which essentially means that he has an uncanny -- no, amazing -- ability to read minds. I was among the skeptics in the audience, but he convinced me that his abilities are real. Not flawless, but real. He spends a good deal of time just visiting with his audience, loosening them up and getting them on his side. By the time he asks much of them, they're ready to trust him.
As a long-seasoned professional entertainer with hundreds of TV guest appearances, Las Vegas headliner gigs, and road shows, he's a fine humorist who puts that to good use in loosening up and entertaining his audience. The climax of his show involves group hypnosis right on the stage, with volunteers from the audience succumbing to his every suggestion. It was convincing, and fun.
In the three horizontal photos here, Kreskin plays a piano lullabye to literally put his volunteers to sleep. Then he walks among them, first checking each to show that they're asleep, then suggesting such events as a heat wave -- they start fanning themselves and loosening clothing. They reach over to pet imaginary animals on the ground. In the last photo here, Kreskin tells them that there's a sudden rain storm. (As always, click any image to enlarge, such as this one to see them all hunkering down against a battering rain.)
When he brought them all out of the hypnosis, he asked each how long they thought they had been on the stage. Their estimates ranged from 5 to 15 minutes; in fact, they had been there for 30 minutes. As he ended the show, audience members were similarly amazed that the show had lasted almost three hours. That's good entertainment.
January 6, 2013 Horsing Around Again
I entered 2013 without a single writing or photography gig lined up. It's the first time in four years that I've had no upcoming work to do and no past work coming up for publication. The Fretboard Journal's January issue is due any day with a George Tomsco interview accompanied by my photos, but that's the end of the string. That got me started brainstorming and contacting editors with story pitches. I'd pitched a Dino Cornay profile to Western Horseman last summer but nothing came of it. This week I succeeded at bumping the editors into giving the feature a green light. Then American Cowboy magazine licensed one of my Max Evans portraits to accompany an interview in its April/May issue. So, technically, I narrowly averted actually having an empty plate, since I landed those before The Fretboard Journal feature arrived. But it was too close for comfort, and too thin.
I wrote on December 28 about how a weird state e-mail filter at New Mexico Magazine has led to at least a six-month hiatus from any work for them -- the term "honky tonk" blocked all of my communications as a "Racial Violation" -- though I'm hoping to get back on track soon. When we finally diagnosed the problem and I re-sent my message edited as "blanky tonk," the editor replied, "Got it! (I'll) Get back soon. I like..." That was ten days ago, and that's how it goes. Editors are swamped, and pushing them too hard can be counter-productive.
Which has prompted me to redouble my efforts to find subjects for Western Horseman. I contributed nine features for them in three years, then couldn't find any more stories. I'd picked the low-hanging fruit. I'm not a horseman myself, and not engaged in that world generally, although it's all around me where I live in rural northeastern New Mexico. I love that world and the stories and the photographs that I find, and Western Horseman is a top-notch publication to work for, so last week I sent out a note to a dozen friends who might be able to give me some ideas. I've gotten a few back already that are promising.
A few years ago I drove our big truck all the way down to the Conchas River Ranch to create a full-length feature that I hoped might make it into Western Horseman. The editor opted, instead, to use Brittany for the magazine's monthly Women of the West two-page feature, for which I did a separate photo shoot in Des Moines that produced this image, which the magazine used. I did another Women of the West feature on Raton's Linda Jackson. Now I'm looking for another horsewoman to make it a third, while also looking for full-length features. Western Horseman focuses its attention on working ranch horses and the people and stories around them. I'm sure there's no shortage of those horses, people, and stories right here where I live. I'm on the lookout.
January 1, 2013 New Beginnings, Irony Edition
Celebrating New Year's Day with a new blog of cemetery images is unintended irony -- sorry about that! I just couldn't resist when the snow was falling yesterday morning to go shoot photos in the cemetery. I'd intended to stay in my neighborhood -- it was cold! -- but Fairmont Cemetery was locked up tight so I drove two miles across town to Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery, adjacent to Raton High School where I spend so much time.
I was disappointed that the snow stopped falling before I got started, but I enjoyed searching for strong images, including the two grave markers above, my favorites of the morning. (As always, click any photo to enlarge it.) The one at top left is a couple, such a lovely headstone. At the heart of the cemetery is this big tableau, at right, under tall trees. Besides this take, I also shot a close up of the praying woman above -- Mary?
Late yesterday afternoon I drove the opposite direction, a dozen miles to Lake Maloya to photograph the final sunset of 2012; I've posted that on today's TKP blog.
With The Chronicle definitely out of the picture and no magazine work currently lined up, my focus is on photography with my new camera and lenses, hoping to focus an upcoming August show of my photography on images that I take in 2013. It's not so much a matter of "out with the old" as simply moving forward, "in with the new." 2013 looks great from here. I wish you all the best -- forward!
Want to see November/December?
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