In October of 2005, at the height of his mid-life crisis, I was commissioned by a self absorbed, narcissistic baby-man to photograph a big game hunt in South Africa. The actual photographs were truly disgusting and the trip went poorly. I will not post those photos to this blog and, for once, will let my words do the talking. These are my stories.
I was commissioned to photograph an ego maniac’s big game hunt in South Africa. It seemed like a bad idea, but it also seemed like a free trip to Africa.
What kind of idiot fool would say no to a free trip to Africa?!
On the other hand, what kind of idiot fool would say yes?
It took 27 hours to reach our destination on the dark continent and, even though our crew rolled in at 4:00 in the morning, we were greeted at the lodge by a cheerful welcome committee. They presented us with snacks and tall glasses of a fruity potion that tasted like air freshener. I sipped at my Glade Tropical Breeze and thought of motel rooms with pineapple bed spreads and torn curtains.
Other workers gathered our luggage and toted it to our cabins. “Be careful walking on the lighted paths at night”, they warned us, “The light attracts insects and the insects attract frogs and the frogs attract Black Mambas, so watch where you put your feet.”
There were some other things our hosts failed to mention, like what to do about the palm sized spider poised directly over the bed. It was working a crossword puzzle and knitting a sweater while waiting for the perfect moment to repel from the ceiling. Spiders have lots of eyes so they are good at multitasking. Arachnid motives, however, are difficult to discern.
This one wanted to turn my face into a cocoon, or maybe not.
“Cocoon” – a 6 letter word for Smothering Silk.
Too tired to care, I fell asleep and was not bothered by the twinkle of round lemur eyes peering through the window.
Pueblos Of The Salinas Valley
The Salinas Valley Pueblo Ruins are just a few of the many ancient architectural sites that New Mexico has to offer. They are evidence of the communities that lived there 300 years ago. Before these pueblos were abandoned in the 1670's, Pueblo Indians had created a stable agricultural society. Two ancient southwestern cultures, the Anasazi and the Mogollon, overlapped in the Salinas Valley to produce the later societies of Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira. These groups had roots as far back as 7000 years and were preceded by nomadic people who may have arrived as early as 20,000 years ago.
Gran Quivira is by far the largest, and possibly the oldest, of the Salinas Pueblo Mission sites. The site, also known as Las Humanas, includes two churches, a cemetery, several kivas, and numerous housing structures with tiny rooms that give new meaning to the term "studio apartment". In addition to all of this, while walking through the site it is obvious that there is at least as many un-excavated areas as there are excavated areas.
Due to it's remote location, Gran Quivira also seems to be the least visited of the three sites. When Johnpaul and I were here, we only saw one other small group of visitors. To get there, go to Mountainair and then drive south on NM55 for about 45 minutes. It's a ways out in the middle of nowhere but absolutely worth the drive, plus you could stop for lunch at the Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair (which has been renovated and is once again open for business) on your way home!
To view my posts from the other Salinas Pueblo Mission Ruins click here.
What's up with the diner booths?
These photos were shot on September 15, 2019
This abandoned house is on NM 55 is just a few miles south of Mountainair. If you make it all the way to Gran Quivira, you passed it about 20 minutes ago. Every room in this house, including the back hallway, is packed with overturned furniture. The desk and chair pictured below are about the only things sitting right side up. The other rooms of the house were very dark and piled high with all kinds of crazy stuff. One room had about seven mattresses in it. Here in the main room, there are what appears to be diner booths that are tossed about willy-nilly like the tornado version of Joanna Gaines arranged the furniture.
If you come here, wear boots and don't touch anything. Hantavirus is real, y'all.
Fierro, New Mexico Was A Mining Town
I visited Fierro, New Mexico in the fall of 2006. These images went missing for about ten years and then I found them again.
"Fierro" means "iron" in Spanish and the town of Fierro is located a few miles north east of Silver City. Fierro was founded in 1841 by a German immigrant. It was a mining town that went belly up during the great depression.
Those who were not killed in mining accidents moved away when the economy tanked, creating a ghost town and leaving behind a church with a lonely caretaker.
St. Anthony's Catholic Church
St. Anthony's Catholic Church was built by the miners of Fierro in 1916. I don't know who would be attending church there nowadays, but I guess there's at least one person.
While poking around the outside of the church I was approached by a woman who asked if I wanted to see the inside. Her name was Juana and I said, "yes, please!" Juana let me in and preceded to regale me with with her personal testimony of the power of the Christ. Keep in mind that this was a long time ago so I may have forgotten some of the finer points but I remember her saying, "It's in the blood, the power is in the blood", over and over again.
Juana let me wander all through the church and shoot whatever photos I wanted. After a while she said, "I'm going home, bring the keys back to my house when you're done." So I did.
It was close to Halloween and Juana had ghosts hanging from trees in her yard. I didn't take any photos inside her house because that seemed rude. I can tell you though, that the inside of her house was decorated like the gift shop of a southwestern ghost town. Every possible surface, both horizontal and vertical, was covered in do-dads, artifacts, photographs, and religious paraphernalia.
Juana cooked tortillas from scratch and fried eggs over easy. All of it was delicious. She told a terrible story of how all the men in her family had been killed in the mine. Her father, her brothers, her husband, her son... all killed in mining accidents. She told me about making burritos as a child and selling them to "white people like you".
Juana was the caretaker of the church and the only resident I remember encountering in Fierro. She was gracious and friendly but I wonder sometimes if she was real.
Not Exactly Here Or There
These photos were shot on September 15, 2019
Best I can figure, this abandoned school house is considered to be in the town of Center Point, but there is no town; just this school and the spot where a shack was across the street. Claunch is nearby, but it's not in Claunch and it's certainly not in Mountainair. The school was apparently operational in the 1940's but, from the looks of it, probably abandoned shortly thereafter. And here it sits, watching the tourists drive by on their way to Gran Quivira.
Tech Specs: As part of an ongoing experiment to make various cameras perform in ways that mother nature never intended, all of these photos were shot with a Canon Powershot Elph 360 (and, yes, it is the purple one) and edited with Fotor.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.