Here you will find the stories behind some of my photos. My photography attempts to capture images that are influenced by Archeological Anthropology. They are images of places and things which time has left behind, and the images focus on the “ruins” of America. They are places that interstates and expressways avoid and that I find while driving endless miles in order to find that one perfect photograph
“In the Jungle anything is possible.” I heard those words more than a few times during my stay in the Amazon. In reflecting on my two weeks, those words once again come to mind. The jungle villages offer vast possibilities and I could see that wherever and whenever I traveled. It is possible to improve the lives of common people so that their community can nourish, so that the temptation to relocate to Iquitos, the large impoverished city to their south, is diminished. Although in the Jungle’s river communities of San Juan de Huashalado, Cabo Pantoja and Bombonaje it is possible to be stricken by disease, injured by insects, reptiles or the water that sustains the communities, the villagers showed that it is also possible to have happy, healthy and prosperous lives in their thatch roofed houses, without the trappings and dangers of Iquitos.
In the jungle villages, there is a genuine desire of the villagers to support their own communities, as shown by them working side-by-side with our students. Together, they moved bricks, lifted sand and cement, bent rebar, painted desks and walls and climbed heights to repair ceiling and roofs. Together, they also laughed and displayed a sincere friendship toward each other. The villagers allowed our students to shine, to become young men and women working in teams to further the sense of community across our cultures. We in turn, through our unselfishness, allowed the villagers to gain a sense of pride and ownership in their community and showed them that their villages could hold a bright future for them and their children because of what we brought in the form of the clinic, wells and maintenance work on the schools.
During my time in the jungle villages, I could see the freedom enjoyed by the village children and adults. In sharp contrast, I was reminded of the reality that await villagers who look toward the city of Iquitos for the possibility of a better life, risking the dangers of the city which is brought about from its’ immense poverty and substandard living conditions. The experience of the boat ride into Iquitos’ Belen district, through the overcrowded, floating city and the waters that are used to fish for food, to bathe, and eliminate waste, solidified the fact that for these people jungle life is much better than city life. The subsequent walk though the Belen market in 90 degree temperatures, past wooden tables displaying for sale chicken and fish, laying out in the open air without refrigeration or cover from flies, was further proof that a fresh killed chicken dinner in the jungle village is more appealing than a meal in the city. The dangers of city life were no more evident with what I saw during my ensuing trip to the city orphanage.
I was struck by the sight of barbed wire on top of a nearly 15-foot high, one-foot thick concrete wall that surrounded the compound and the large, heavy iron gates, secured by at least three guards. The 30-40 children, who were either “temporarily” abandoned or truly orphaned, greeted us with smiles and laughter. They were all happy, smiling, clean, well dressed and by all accounts healthy. A tour of the facility given by the children clearly showed that the buildings and grounds were well kept and the children had a sense of pride in their home. I asked a Guide for the reason behind the security and was told that it was to protect the children from Child Trafficking. I was reminded of a hand painted, bilingual billboard that I saw a week earlier on the way from the Airport, reflecting the deplorable presence of that trade and its’ attempt to stop it. Law Number 28257 will send anyone to prison when caught. I am saddened to think that people in the neighboring jungle communities believe that their future and those of their children could possibly be brighter in this city. While returning to the village after our day in Iquitos, my thoughts returned to our work. In the Jungle, anything is possible and it is possible to change the future path of the friends we made in those villages.
In the Jungle villages, I was able to see the realization of dreams, the dreams of organizers, students, teachers and volunteers. The dreams of creating sustainable villages, with clinics, wells and schools. I witnessed those dreams turn into tangible works, in order to improve the lives of villagers so that their future can remain bright in their own communities.
Because of my detour into Utah, I could no longer avoid the interstate. Leaving Glenwood Springs, I proceeded onto I-70 East. Nearly fifty miles into the drive and at speeds of at least 75 MPH, it was easy to miss great photographic subjects. Luckily, adjacent to the expressway near the town of Bakerville and protruding from the river below, was a mill. It was battered by the passing of time. It had broken windows, no useful roof and cracked planking. It was perfect. The structure was on private property and could only be photographed from across the river, but it was worth the stop. The mining operations were deserted for some time, but it had the excellent aged features that make great photographs. After composing a few photos, I once again entered the expressway, satisfied that I was able to get one more great photo during my week in Colorado.
By noon time, I decided to come off the interstate again and stop in Idaho Springs, CO to eat lunch. In that town, I saw what can be described as not a normal city scene. While eating lunch outside a Safeway, a red Ford Pickup parked next to me. It was the usual Pickup, equipped with only one row of seats.
I was looking at the passenger side when the passenger door opened and a chubby ten year old girl came out, followed by an overweight teenage boy. I glanced inside and laying under the dash in a somewhat fetal position was another girl about the same age as him. She was tall enough that she could have touched both ends of the car had she not been in that position. I pretended not to look, but I continued to see it unfold. The girl wiggled her way out of the pickup, then moved away from the door. Next, a short, heavy woman, who seemed to have misplaced her dentures, came out. I looked in to see if anyone else was going to flow out, but it seemed empty except for a thin, male driver. I would never have known a Pickup can fit that many people and sizes, but apparently it can happen in places other than a circus.
Since Idaho Springs seemed to be interesting, I decided to drive through the town before picking up the interstate again. I would find an old firehouse on Colorado Boulevard to photograph. The firehouse was shuttered and seems to have been one of the first buildings in the town. It was as small as a one car garage with weathered doors and lettering. This town turned out to be a reason why I typically avoid the interstate, but once again I needed to get on it to get to Denver in time.
While speeding along I-70, I suddenly realized that I needed to make one more stop. I did not pick up a vintage state license plate, my usual souvenir when doing my photo drives. I got off the interstate in Wheat Ridge and after trying a few places, I found the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall and bought a 1964 Colorado plate to add to my vintage collection, which includes a 1928 Maine plate as well as a 1938 California World’s Fair license plate. Afterwards, it was back to the expressway to continue my drive east and into Denver. My only stop in Denver was to have dinner before driving the additional 28 miles to the airport. I arrived at 10 p.m. for my 1 a.m. (MDT) flight back to NYC. In New York, it was really 3 a.m. and stormy and the flight was delayed an hour.
While waiting for my flight to board, I recalled my one week adventure driving across Colorado with the unplanned stop in Utah. It was a feast for all of my senses as I saw hundreds of peaks, canyons and ravines. I heard the sounds of rivers, as well as the sound of silence. I felt both ends of the temperature spectrum. I covered the state using steep, winding and sometimes heart-pounding roads. I became stranded. I was astounded, amazed and educated. I was reminded that natural american resources are to be protected. When it was over, I had driven 1744 miles while snapping 1190 photographs of which I will consider only a few as successful. It was a week that will live on in my photos and my memories.
After a quick five mile drive from Moab, UT to Arches National Park and missing the hidden park entrance, I began to drive the narrow and winding miles within the park. There is a sharp contrast in the temperature and environment of this park and the roads and mountains of Colorado. On the day that I visited, the temperature reached over 95 F. Colorado was between 35 and 70 F. The millions of trees lining the Coloradan roads were replaced by rugged desert landscape.
I began my quest for the world famous Delicate Arch with stops along the way. As I was driving, I was reminded of scenes from one of the old “Planet of the Apes” movies. At a specific point on the road, grand rock formations that resembled lower Manhattan’s “Canyon of Heros” came in sight. This site within Arches Park is named “Park Avenue.” As in the Planet of the Apes movies, it looked like what should only remain in someone’s imagination. A once prosperous city destroyed by forces beyond anyone’s control.
Continuing my drive north into the park, I proceeded to the “Windows” section. From the parking area there is a one mile looped hike to the base of the windows and arches. The scale of the windows’ arches is awesome. It is hard to imagine how the forces of nature carved the holes to make the windows and how the forces of gravity do not take it down. The people below looked like tiny desert rodents when compared to the grandeur of the rock above.
My last stop in the park was Delicate Arch. From the parking area, the 1.5 mile hike rises 480 feet. It has no shade and is on open rock and has exposure to heights. It started with a warning, “bring at least one quart of water per person. Heat and dehydration can be fatal!” I brought no water. I also did not think of sunscreen or a hat. I learned no lesson from my Pikes Peak mishap.
On the streets of New York City, it normally takes me twenty minutes to walk the same distance. As I started my climb up the rugged trail, with the sun directly over my head, I felt the rays bake my noggin. For nearly the whole hike, the arch is not visible but the sun is and I thought if not bringing water was a good idea. I continued the climb, first through bushy terrain then on what can be described as rocks. The rocks became a type of massive bolder called slick-rock, resembling a concrete sidewalk. Except, it was not flat but angled at nearly 45 degrees and spanned a distance that was about a fifteen minute hike before getting to the plateau. While walking under the noon sun, I felt it beat down on the back of my neck, as the sunburn on the top of my head started to extended down to my shoulders, arms and legs. I paused and wondered if I was past the half way mark or should I turn back.
I continued up to find Delicate Arch by hiking an otherwise unmarked trail by following the cairn tail markings. I continued up the trail as it became very rugged and then turned into a ledge in a steep cliff with no protection from a drop that was several hundred feet. The ledge’s wall brought much needed shade, cool air and a place to sit to recuperate from the one hour non-stop hike up from the base of the trail. I made it this far. I thought, “who needs water” and the Arch must be near. As I paused, a man in his late sixties whizzed by, carrying a back pack and a camera, asking me if the “Pub” was around the corner. A bar wasn’t but Delicate Arch was.
As I rounded the corner, the arch, extending a least a hundred feet above the ground and just as wide, was finally visible. Like a rainbow without the full prism of colors, it shined orange in the early afternoon sun. The hike up was worth the discomfort brought on by the sun and heat. I composed a few photos and sat down, relaxing and enjoying one more of nature’s wonder.
As I looked down on the arch, I thought about my hike back to the car. It would be down hill and should not be as exhaustive as the trip up. On the way down, I saw the look on some people’s faces that were making their way up and thought “did I have the same dismayed look of on my face?” I made sure to give some words of encouragement to one person who looked like a 50+ year old father to the energetic young children that were with him. “You’re almost there,” I said. He smiled back a “Thank You.” He was no where near the Arch, but there was no need for me to tell him the truth.
After an amazing day in Arches National Park, I needed to position myself for the trip back to Denver. My flight back to NYC was on the following day. As I exited the park, I was given a choice of roads to drive 25 miles to I-70, CR 128 with steep and winding roads paralleling the Arkansas River or US 191. It was late in the day and to avoid driving unfamiliar and possibly treacherous roads, CR 128 would have to wait for another time. I drove the disappointing US 191 to the interstate and continued to drive to Glenwood Springs, Co and would conclude the nearly 200 remaining miles to the airport the following day.
The 85 mile western leg of San Juan Skyway was not as an exciting ride as the east side. The east side was a breathtaking and heart-pounding ride. The west side, although beautiful with snowcapped mountain back drops, did not have the steep cliffs and slopes of the San Juan Mountains. Yet, it is probably a treacherous ride in the winter or during the spring thaw as evidenced by the many signs announcing avalanche zones, but in late spring that suspense seemed to not exist. Continuing north on CR 145 on one hundred plus miles of the San Juan, I was accompanied by the roaring sounds of the Dolores River. The Dolores River is a white water rafters dream, with points of it looking like an angry pot of boiling water.
While cruising down the road in the Dove Creek area, my eye saw a rusted metal structure nearly 25 feet tall. It looked like a good subject to photograph. It was some sort of pulley system that is used to transport goods across the river by using man power. It reminded me of the times when I was younger visiting family in Sicily. At the time, and probably still today, farmers and bakers would drive through the streets yelling out the names of products that they were selling from their three-wheeled vehicles. Baskets tied to ropes would be used to move the goods from the street below to buyers on second story balconies above.
Continuing the drive north on CR 145, the San Juan Skyway cuts through old mining towns. After passing through Dolores, I came across and paused in the old mining town of Rico with it’s abandoned mining structures, consisting of rusted gears, pulleys and wire. This relic of the past remains as a reminder of the once prosperous silver mining town, but today Rico lives on as a tiny town with no mining industry. Returning to my journey north, I drove in the shadows of the snowcapped San Barnardo and Sunshine and Sheep mountains, enjoying their splendor.
As I continued north, I decided to detour for one more National Park. I decided that Utah would be my next destination and my direction went westward. I diverted off of the San Juan Skyway and followed the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway and for a stretch the sounds of San Miguel River replaced the sounds of the Delores. The run-off from the spring’s warmth also made this an angry path for thrill seekers that prefer the violent churning of the water under their seats instead of smooth rubber wheels.
Unaweep is indian for “where land come together,” and while driving westward though Colorado, the cool and sometimes cold drive through the mountains and canyons would become dry and hot with views of cattle ranges. The landscape would soon become the flat deserts of Utah. I took the opportunity to pull to the side of the road just east of the states’ border near the town of Paradox, Co to relax and listen to the silence of the desert and snap a self-portrait with the Uncompahgre Forest and Gunnison mountain range in the background. As the day came to a close, I concluded this 117 mile leg of my journey and decided to spend the night in Moab, Utah. The gateway to Arches National Park.