Exhibition Installation, Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, Albuquerque Museum of Art 2009
When you are in the throes of a project time passes without much notice. Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls this mental state where a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus—flow. I like that.
Life has been good down in Alamogordo hiking for miles across the gleaming dunes of White Sands National Monument, making photographs for my next book. Capturing just the right moment with my Nikon—when light and inspiration meet if only for a second—have filled my days. I am astonished to learn that my last post—about my mighty Toyota Tundra named Helios—was back in February. Helios and I fortunately continue to work diligently and happily together in Alamogordo following the light. My apologies for my tardiness . . . I will endeavor to do better.
My 2003 Toyota Tundra at White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, New Mexico 2013 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian
One of the most important tools in my photographic work is not found in my camera bag. It’s my perfect Zone V gray toned 2003 Toyota Tundra purchased new from Beaver Toyota in Santa Fe. I have come to truly respect Toyota and in fact this dealer too. Years ago, after many failed attempts to repair a Toyota Land Cruiser I owned at the time, Toyota gave me a new vehicle with their sincerest apologies. They have had my heartfelt gratitude and loyalty to their brand ever since.
Weston and his horse Cowboy, nr. Santa Fe, New Mexico 2014 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian
Making a successful portrait is one of my greatest challenges and joys as a photographer. To look into the eyes of a subject and catch a glimpse of his deeper self (some might say soul), and to convey that in a photograph, are two parts of a profound experience. Some subjects, as you might imagine, will reveal little about themselves. Others are more open, and when you look into their eyes you get a real sense of who they are and the road they have travelled. In the former instance you photograph the subject’s appearance—what the eyes and hair look like, and so forth. In the latter you have an opportunity to capture the subject’s true self—what some may call their essence.
Eagle Dancers #2, Laguna Pueblo, 1962 by Lee Marmon, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico
Laguna Pueblo: A Photographic History
Lee Marmon, Photographer and Tom Corbett, Writer
Published by the University of New Mexico Press, February 2015
Dimensions: approx. 8.75 x 10.25″ 224 pages
I have been a big fan of Lee Marmon’s photography ever since I saw his well-known photograph White Man’s Moccasins shortly after I arrived in Santa Fe. Over the years I have become more and more enchanted by his images. When I look at them, something in the chant from the Navajo Nightway ceremonial and its most salient phrase, “It is finished in beauty” comes to mind. I sense that’s its powerful meaning resonates within his beautiful photographs.
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.