The Eyes of Duran, Winter, Duran, New Mexico 2015 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian
“A small town has as many eyes as a fly”
-Sonya Hartnett, author
Often when I am making photographs in a small village, particularly one I haven’t visited before, I have this very real sense that all eyes are on my every movement. This is understandable of course and I chalk it up to a time-honored tradition among villagers, particularly in remote places, of sometimes being wary of strangers when they come to town. You can never be too careful.
I have never quite been able to prove that I actually am being watched unless someone ventures outdoors and says hello or invites me to leave. However during a recent stop in the village of Duran located about a hundred miles southeast of Albuquerque, I finally confirmed what my finely tuned senses already knew. For it was here that I actually discovered the watchful eyes of this beautiful New Mexico village.
Apple iPhone 6 | Hipstamatic Tintype app
Gallery Exhibition, Images from my book Four & Twenty Photographs: Stories from Behind the Lens, Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian
“When buying from an artist/maker you’re buying more than just an object/painting. You are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experimentation. You are buying days, weeks and months of frustration and moments of pure joy. You aren’t just buying a thing. You are buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a moment of someone’s life . . .”
—Rebekah Joy Plett, Artist
I am always grateful when someone purchases an original photograph of mine. If someone falls in love with an image that I made and is willing to lay down real money in order to take it home, it is an affirmation of my work. These customers are my supporters and my angels.
In my early days when print sales were few and far between, I was even more grateful when someone came along and purchased a print. I needed the affirmation even more in those days, and the sale proved to me that my work had value beyond the joy I experienced when I created it. It affirmed that what I had to say through the lens resonated with others.
Larry Lattman’s Geology Field Belt and Tools, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico 2014 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian. Photograph was made using an Apple iPhone 6 and was processed using nik’s excellent Analog Pro plugin.
I have always been fascinated with the tools that people use to accomplish their work. I love, for example, spending time at my friend Clint’s saddle shop studying and making photographs of the old tools he uses to craft his world-class saddles. And as a photographer, I certainly have my share of tools—from a cutting edge, Nikon high mega-pixel digital camera—really a computer of sorts—to a set of rare Carl Zeiss Protar view camera lenses, crafted by hand in Germany nearly a century ago.
Two Cameras: An Ebony 5×7 View Camera with Carl Zeiss Protar lens and a Nikon D810 digital camera with Nikon 24-70mm lens
Under a Crescent Moon, Autumn, White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, New Mexico 2014 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian
I think there is something absolutely magical about watching the moon as it makes its incredible journey across the heavens. Though clouds may obscure its view and its appearance certainly changes as the moon waxes and wanes, I take heart in knowing that this celestial wanderer makes its daily pilgrimage across the firmament.
Cowgirl Akimbo, Summer, San Marcos, New Mexico 2014 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian
A K I M B O.
I like the sound of the word. Arms akimbo is a body position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward, or bent or simply bowed. Legs apparently can be akimbo too with the knees bent and spread widely apart. I remember first encountering the word in a description of a beguiling Edward Weston portrait of Charis Wilson at Lake Ediza written by Charis herself.
Red & Green Chile Peppers, Ranchos de las Golondrinas, New Mexico 2014. Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian
In New Mexico we are proud of our chile. Some like red. Others like green. And some people like “Christmas” where a little of both are served with your meal. And don’t get me started on which one tastes hotter!
Once you get a taste for our chile, nothing else will ever do. Some say that New Mexico peppers get their special flavor from how they’re grown: high altitude, long seasons of heat and sunlight, hot days and “chilly” nights (pun intended). Others have a preference for the precise locale where their chile is grown; farmers in Hatch or Chimayo New Mexico for example, each claim they have the best chile.
All I know is that New Mexico chile from anywhere in the state is simply the best there is. As the late great N’awlins chef Justin Wilson would drawl, “I ga-ron-tee!”
P.S. If you want to learn more about New Mexico chile, check out the article Chile Wars in the Santa Fe Reporter newspaper.
My dog Dektol in the Subaru, October 10, 2014. Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian. Photograph made with an Apple iPhone 6
A musician friend of mine and I were having a conversation about the value of practicing recently. Of course he does it. Pretty much everyday. He told me that if he didn’t practice his piano for a single day he could tell that the music he is making is not his best. He went on to say that if he didn’t practice for two days, his agent could definitely hear it in the sound. And if he didn’t practice for three days, he knew he would disappoint his audience. Practice is very important.
I have spent the few free moments I have had this week, totally engrossed in Ken Burns’ latest film The Roosevelts, An Intimate History currently being broadcast on public television. The film presents, in seven parts, the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. An amazing and moving film.
In the final minutes of episode two, we are presented with what is perhaps one of the most memorable things Theodore Roosevelt’s may have ever penned. He writes:
Richard Zakia (R) in the classroom with student Andrew Davidhazy. Professor Davidhazy went on to become a respected teacher at RIT. Photograph courtesy Andrew Davidhazy
This appreciation originally appeared on this blog in March 2012.
I have been thinking a lot about teachers and teaching lately with the passing of a favorite college professor of mine. Richard D. Zakia, who I had the privilege of studying with when I was a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, passed away on March 12, 2012 at the age of 87.
Dr. Z, as his students would call him, was amazing in many ways. While he began his work life as a photographic engineer at Eastman Kodak he, luckily for us, came to teaching in 1957, beginning his career at RIT where I later came to know him. He was a man who had his feet planted firmly in two worlds; one in the technical world of photography, being able to explain the nuisances of sensitometry—the study of the action of light and chemistry on photographic materials—and the other planted in the world of aesthetics trying to understand through gestalt psychology and semiotics not only what photographs mean but also why they are visually organized the way they are.
Rebekkah Varjabedian and newborn goat, Picacho, New Mexico 2010 by Craig Varjabedian
My daughter Rebekkah leaves for college this week. As I contemplate the impending goodbye that will take place in a few days, I am grateful that she turned out to be such a kind, thoughtful and incredibly capable young woman. While I know it will be sad for her mother and I (and her Aunt Cindy too) when she leaves for school, the excitement of what I know lies ahead for her allays my sadness. The photograph above, made a few years ago, foretells her life’s passion, that of becoming a healer of animals—a veterinarian. And in her caring for all creatures great and small, I know she will find her true bliss.