November 25, 2016
October 23, 2016
October 21, 2016
October 10, 2016
In the photo, both signs said "171 Acres Available" until someone wrote "NATIVE AMERICA" over the sign on the right. The rock painted blood-like was a few yards to the east. These acts tell a truer story about what Columbus Day represents than the story I was taught in grade school. The most important part of the lesson being that colonization isn't an event that ended in the past but a process that is still in motion: We are participating in the full blown occupation of indigenous people's homeland in the present.
Every year, I'm appalled that Columbus Day is still on the calendar. It's embarrassing that we would honor any European for "discovering" America. Aside from the fact that giving this credit to Columbus is historically inaccurate, it's cognitive dissonance that allowed our teachers to say "Columbus discovered America in 1492" in one breath and then to teach us about "Native Americans" in another. It should have been obvious that a man can't discover a place where people already live. This same cognitive dissonance pervades our American identity, way of thinking and lifestyle in every single way.
Colonization is not some distant sin committed by our forebears that we've been absolved of taking responsibility for by virtue of the passage of time. We who are alive now are settler occupiers too. While we enjoy the privilege created by our American ancestors, we are living on occupied lands. The poor and downtrodden among us are living on occupied lands. The descendants of African slaves are living on occupied lands. Churches are built on occupied lands. Our homes, on occupied land. Our hospitals, schools, shops, dams, cemeteries, mines, pipelines, highways, Wall Street and everything in between- all function on occupied lands. Your land is not really your land, even if you "own" it. That ownership is legitimate in compliance with the occupation only but in reality, the ownership is false and you are just a present day settler.
It's helpful to shift our thinking about the truth of our place in America, the popular phrase "Decolonize Your Mind" is succinctly accurate. (Read: Decolonizing Our Hears and Minds by Tlalli Yaotl) I don't claim to know how to end our occupation and I don't believe that we can ever go back to the way it was before colonization started. The meager least we can do is stop lying to ourselves about simple things. Change "Columbus Day" to "Indigenous Peoples Day" or "Colonization Awareness Day" or something of the like, to serve as a reminder of how we came to be here. AND to stop the mistake of misunderstanding our roles and responsibilities in the present as settlers benefitting from this occupation.
My intent here is not a call to guilt but a call to shatter false myths and a call to atonement. It's not my fault that I was born of European descent in the United States of America, but I'm still an occupier. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents are/were occupiers. It may be hard to face but unless your ancestors are indigenous to the Americas, you are an occupier too. Let's do better than our American ancestors and move forward in the spirit of reparation- reparation for the soil, water and air, and to the indigenous lives who still belong to this land.
DONATE TODAY! Below are a few links where we can contribute to our indigenous sisters and brothers. Or, reach out to nonprofit organizations built on the land where you yourself live.
September 30, 2016
Cairn off the side of Route 66 in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
I found this stack of rocks beautiful. They caught me off guard. For no reason in particular, I pulled my car over near this spot and set off walking away from the road towards the open desert. I meandered for a while, I don't know for how long. There was lots of life and spirit to see in a place that many people dismiss as "barren." It's always that way in the Mojave Desert. People reject it as a wasteland but no matter how dead a spot looks from a distance, once you get up close the word "barren" is meant for some other place, far away. When I turned to go back, the stack was suddenly there as if out of nowhere in a place that already felt haunted. The atmosphere at dusk was palpable, aglow, the landscape hummed as it threw off the heat it absorbed earlier from the hot desert sun.
Romantic experiences with the land aside, I do acknowledge that the the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics discourages moving anything in the natural landscape, including rocks. Stacking is generally frowned upon. They're addressing national and state parks etc. but the principals apply to any place that's wilder than our towns and cities. We humans already move so much. We destroy so much on purpose and by accident. When we go away from our manmade places... I understand that we should just let the places be. We don't deserve to leave our mark on every single place.
September 23, 2016
August 19, 2016
July 29, 2016
July 10, 2016
We deliberately created the ghettos in America. They're the product of covert segregation in the 20th century. This wasn't an unfortunate effect of benign policies, it was done explicitly. Federal, state and local governments are culpable for intentionally segregating the races and turning Black neighborhoods into slums in the modern era. Banks and real estate agencies participated too, through red lining & block busting. Communities still participate through covenants, spoken or implied. The passing of the Fair Housing Act helped a little but was incapable of undoing the bulk of previous economic damage to poor Black communities. The policy is too little too late even when it's honored.
The high rates of criminal activity in Black ghettos are a result of self-reinforcing cycles of desperate poverty that we ensured through many means, some obvious some subtle. We also created the tension between law enforcement and Black communities with social conditioning. All of us reinforce in generation after generation, the fear that Black people, especially Black men, are inherently more dangerous than Whites. Sometimes it's subconscious, sometimes it's blatant and outward. It's always racist even when we're trying better not to be. Of course, there's a need for heavier police presence in some neighborhoods, yet it increases the odds for conflict and another self-reinforcing cycle of bias and animosity.
This is just a truncated list of circumstances that keep America in a state of morbid imbalance even all these generations beyond the ratification of the 13th amendment. And here we are now in 2016 at another fever pitch - animosity proliferates, there's violence in the streets and people are blaming Black folks for it.
STOP IT. Whites need to take responsibility.
Any White person living in poverty can attest to how difficult it is to rise in economic class. Yet the common default is blame, not empathy for our poor Black sisters and brothers who face more challenges than we do. The truth is brutal and the brunt of healing race problems in America lies on the shoulders of White folks. Those of us who don't get that, are being racists on a fundamental level whether we understand that about ourselves or not. Too bad if that hurts our feelings or makes us angry. And the common excuse of “but I have black friends“ doesn't count for anything. We can still have Black "friends" and be White supremacists. On an unconscious level, we still want to maintain a world in which Whites wield more power and hold authority over Blacks. It’s deeply ingrained and we refuse to see it within ourselves or our public policies. THAT is the truth.
The compulsion to take measures that keep Blacks in their place in America are both literal and figurative. Ever notice that white folks weren't saying #alllivesmatter until people started saying #blacklivesmatter? It comes from the same deep-seated compulsion to keep Blacks in their place that created the ghettos and slums.
Retaliating with "All Lives Matter” is not an altruistic, progressive, noble or spiritually awakened declaration of color blindness. Some of us come at it from this angle rather than from the spirit of blatant protest. It's still wrong. It’s pretending to not see race when so much of what we do is because of race. This is yet another unconscious tool for preserving the status quo because we don’t want to take responsibility. “Color blindness” is just another way to tell ourselves that we’ve fixed the problem within ourselves even though we’re perpetuating it, especially within the collective.
Stop blaming Blacks. WE whites have played the dominant role here. This present moment has been centuries in the making, by us. Blacks have the right to be angry so be quiet and just listen for a change. Stop being defensive, breathe deeply, scrutinize our own habits and tendencies and open up to empathy. It's high time that we Whites swallow our pride and answer to our responsibilities. We keep hearing talking points like "Unite, Don't Divide" but until White people get real, it's empty rhetoric. It's not going to happen until Whites admit that it's OUR job to fix this.
June 23, 2016
Please don't approach animals at Yellowstone or any other national park- they are wild. This is not a petting zoo, it is not Disneyland, not an opportunity for a selfie with a bison. The wild animals in the parks can kill you, even if they appear docile or even lazy. Leaving animals be at a safe distance isn’t just for your own safety, it’s out of basic respect for the living landscape that the animals are a part of. Tread lightly on the Earth, treat the plants, animals, waters, air & minerals with dignity and respect their power.
June 10, 2016
June 9, 2016
I really fell in love with this place. It was unexpected- mostly because the reputation of Yellowstone, just a short drive to the north, overshadowed the purview of Grand Teton. I think that's probably true for a lot of people. But Grand Teton is not second rate and it left a special mark on me. I need to get back to The Tetons. When I do, it won't be soon enough.
May 27, 2016
I see that beautiful spirit
Floating there with the darkness
Unique in all the Universe
Not appeared accidentally
Not created deliberately
It… simply… just… happened
I made this picture in 1994 as a student at OIP&T (The Ohio Institute of Photography & Technology) in Dayton, OH. It was my first attempt at using a view camera, 4x5. This was before the digital revolution really took hold. I was 18 years old, full of ambition, optimism and eager to learn photography very well. Finally getting my hands on a view camera really did fill me with joy. I sort of knew what I was doing but not from experience, only from reading about large format photography on my own and ruminating on the principles. This image wasn't even the product of an assignment. The moment I was granted lab privileges, I marched my little ass into that studio and made this image.
I still love this picture so much. I didn't consider myself an animist at the time, that word hadn't even entered my purview. But I was an animist. I still am. Seeing light. Working with darkness. Photographing Spirit. I didn't know it in 1994 but this image would become my own personal emblem for my worldview.
May 20, 2016
May 9, 2016
April 29, 2016
March 31, 2016
March 25, 2016
March 19, 2016
March 18, 2016
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Sunday March 6, 2016
I had two photographer friends suggest that the rainbow was faked in this image- filtered in or photoshopped, because it's below the horizon. It's not fake. This is how it really looked. Now, I'm by no means a documentarian and I adjust my pictures to communicate how a place/time FELT to me rather than show how it looked literally. But adding a rainbow is a stretch I won't make. I don't make Care Bear cartoons, this is my landscape photography and I aim to show the spirit of place above anything else.
Ansel Adams conveyed mood expertly with his negative making and printing skills. In fact, he would print the same negatives differently at different times in his life to reflect his mood at the time. Granddaddy Adams did it, most other photographers do it and I do it too, my own way. This is what elevates photography to art in the first place. In a sense, it makes every picture a self portrait of the photographer to some degree.
Red Rock Canyon is a special kind of magic on its own without help from me. This rainbow is real, ya'll and I love it. This storm was one of the most beautiful moments I've witnessed at Red Rock Canyon yet and I'll keep going back as often and for as long as I can. Like with all relationships, "one must observe the proper rites."
I will have functioned as a photographer if my pictures stir reverence for Nature in the viewer and inspire a need to care for the land (and water and air and plants and animals) much better than we have been. Our collective sanity and survival on this planet depend on it but improving our ways for Nature's sake, without any particular promise of benefit to ourselves, is ideal. Nature deserves to function in peace for its own sake. I hope one day very soon that we understand this and behave accordingly.
March 11, 2016
March 4, 2016
Amboy Crater is the jet-black nested cinder cone of an extinct volcano surrounded by a 27sq mile lava field in the heart of the Mojave Desert. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973 and last erupted 10,000 years ago. This photo was made overlooking Bristol Lake, a playa or dry lake bed, to the east of the crater.