Left Behind

iPhone, Words

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I photograph houses for Real Estate listings so I see a lot of vacant homes. I often come across things that are left behind. I’m fascinated by the variety of objects that are left. Are they forgotten, overlooked, unwanted? I’m always curious about how they came to be left behind. I came across these toys in the back yard of a cozy little house. The yard was well taken care of, it was green, it had grass(this is New Mexico), a small garden and some trees. The train engine and it’s person was laying under a tree, I imagined that the child who had been playing with it was called away by the parents. Maybe they finished loading up stuff for the move and the child left the toys thinking he would be right back for them not realizing that he was leaving for good. Moving on.

White Sands

Words

A French Couple’s Love for the American West Ends in Tragedy
I live about 15 minutes from White Sands. I was heartbroken when I saw this news in the local paper. I know how beautiful and how dangerous white sands is. I spent a year photographing white sands for a 365 blog. The best images from the blog ended up in my book I published on white sands. 

The Alkali Flat Trail is by far my favorite place in the monument. I spent most of my time hiking the trail in my quest to make new images. You wouldn’t think that miles and miles of white sand could produce enough diversity to complete a 365 blog. That was the premise and driving factor of the blog. I wanted to push myself and force a change in my perspective. The project was a turning point in my work. 

I can think of two incidents where I found myself in trouble at white sands. The first time was midsummer and midday. Huge mistake. I had both of my kids with me. We had been in Las Cruces, on the way home I wanted to make a quick stop at the sands to make a couple of images. We went to the nature trail. We didn’t walk very far from the parking lot. There is a tree growing out of the sand that I wanted to show my kids. We found the tree, I even made an image of my daughter standing under the tree. I love that image, it hangs in my studio. On the way back to the car I started to get overheated, lightheaded, and extremely tired. This worried me because I know how fast heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen. Luckily, neither one of my kids showed signs of heat related illness.  I didn’t have water with me because it was just a quick walk. When we got to the car I sat for a while with the air conditioning on high. I checked the mirror and noticed that my skin was red and blotchy from being so overheated. 

The second time I found myself in over my head was out on the alkali flat trail. I hiked out a few miles. I frequently strayed from the marked trail. I would use certain points on the mountains to keep track of direction. When I started to tire I headed back in the direction of the parking lot where I was parked. I walked a long time, longer than I should have. I was worried I was lost. I knew that I was headed in the right general direction and if I kept going I would find the road. If I could find the road I would be able to find my car. There was a news story around that time about a tourist that got lost in the sands. He was able to call for help. He was rescued by an Army helicopter out of El Paso. I didn’t want to end up in a similar news story. Although “Local  Photographer Rescued From White Sands” would have been a great way to get publicity for my blog and eventual book, I didn’t want to have that kind of attention. When I found the road I discover I had overshot my car by about a mile. I made it back safely. 

Both of these incidents could have had very different and very tragic endings. Do your research before you trek out into the desert. Bring water. Bring snacks. Bring a cell phone. Please don’t go midday. 

Over the Edge 

Words

During our Canyon de Chelly trip we drove South Rim Drive and stopped at 6 of the 7 overlooks. The fifth overlook is Sliding House Overlook. When we approached the trail we saw this sign 

  
I’m a very anxious person so I immediately started imagining children and pets falling off the cliff. I fell off a cliff when I was a kid. Maybe I slid more than I actually fell, but in my mind it’s the same thing. I was hiking with my Dad and my siblings when my brother and I decided to see who could make it down the fastest. I’m usually up for a challenge. The next thing I knew I was falling. I beat him to the bottom, I won! I was unharmed except for emotional scars. Since then I have a fear of falling off cliffs or seeing my kids fall off cliffs. 

My son, Angel told me he wanted to take a photo where it looks like he is leaning over the edge with just the ground in the background. Ugh! I can understand this but it terrified me. I couldn’t stand him even being this close 

  
It looks like he is really close to the edge. He was a safe-ish distance away. I started having a panic attack seeing him near the edge so I had to go back to wait in the car. I trusted him that he wouldn’t put himself in danger. I was waiting in the car for what seemed like a long time. He finally came back with this photo 

  
I have a hard time looking at it. He was trying to tell me about taking the photo, but I couldn’t handle it. I scolded him. What if his shoe didn’t have enough traction? What if there was a strong gust of wind? What if he fell while I was waiting in the car? I’d have no idea and I would have to go looking for him. 

This is my idea of a great selfie. We are both safely on the ground nowhere near a 700 ft sheer cliff. 

  
We skipped overlook #6 because I was ready to see Spider Rock and also because I wanted to keep Angel away from the edge as much as possible. 

I love this kid. I admire his boldness, his independence, & his rebel spirit. Even when it scares me. 

 “My Name Is Asher Lev.”  

Words

“What are you painting?”I said, “A classmate.”

“Do you hate him?”

I was quiet.

“You hate him and are afraid to paint your hatred. Yes?”

I did not say anything.

“It is a false painting. It reeks of cowardice and indecision. In art, cowardice and indecision can be seen in every stroke of a brush. If you hate him, paint your hatred or do not paint him at all. One must not paint everything one feels. But once you decide to paint something, you must paint the truth or you will paint green rot. This boy in your class—he mistreats you?”

I nodded.

“He is mean to you? He laughs at you?”

I nodded.

“These marks on his face—they are pimples?”

I nodded.

“And you hate him?”

I nodded.

“Then paint him the way you feel about him. Use your lines and colors and shapes to make your statement simply and clearly. Do you understand?”

He came over to me later and peered at the canvas. He nodded slowly. “It is an excellent painting.” He looked at me soberly. “I would not like to be hated by you, Asher Lev.”
Excerpt From: Potok, Chaim. “My Name Is Asher Lev.”  

Ripple Effect

Words

I wouldn’t call myself an activist, but I do make my voice heard when it comes to something I feel strongly about. I was taught to take a stand and fight for what I believe in. So that’s what I do. 

Those who know me know that I’m generally pretty quiet. I don’t have a lot to say. Okay, I do, but I mostly keep it to myself. So sometimes the things I do say can be impactful. My Mission Statement says, in part “We are committed to using photographic images to positively impact the community.” I wholeheartedly believe in this. Not just with my photography, but in every area in my life. I strive everyday to have a positive impact. I fail at it, a lot. I’m only human. 

Today I received an email, something I did helped someone in a big way. I see this as confirmation that I did the right thing. The impact of most of the things we do cannot be measured. It is impossible to fully understand the effect that one action can have. I like to think that by helping one person, you help the world. It’s a ripple effect. Perhaps one day this person will go on to do something that will help another and so on.