Thursday, June 5, 2014
Last month we took a two week trip to Taos, NM and as we drove through a rather uninviting section of northern New Mexico, I made the comment that on the way home I would like to point my camera at one of these junkyards and record this countryside for posterity. Junkyards used to be a common sight back east when I was a teen, and this was the first real junkyard I had seen in decades. In fact, we had been spotting one after another after we crossed the Colorado border into New Mexico. This was not the sort of landscape that would give a traveler a very good impression of this state.
Several days later, as I was photographing some historical sights, I decided to drive back out to this area and make my photograph of a real junkyard.
I had our two dogs with me and they were anxious to take a good run, but I decided to make my image stop first, so I pulled off the highway and gathered up my tripod and camera and as I was setting it up, a rather large menacing figure emerged from one of the vehicles and started to approach the gate through the fence. I had this happen once before back in Virginia many years ago as I was photographing a lovely view of a cornfield covered by a light snow. I was threatened by the owner who came charging out of his drive and blocked me in with his car where I had pulled off the highway. It was like, "here we go again."
This was obviously not a friendly visit, but I waited until this filthy dirty man walked through the gate and I said howdy. His first comment was, that "I was trespassing on his property." I replied in a friendly voice that I was not on his property, but I was, instead, standing on highway property. Public property, and there was no law against making photographs from the highway. So the question and answer session began. "Why are you photographing this side of he road instead of the other side?" he asked. Because I have already photographed the other side I replied. Next, it was, "why are you taking these pictures." I replied that I was making a documentary of back country roads in New Mexico. "For who" he replied. For me, I replied. And I have done this many times before. By now Danny and Bella were barking with their heads hanging out the truck window, and they were not happy about what they were seeing.
By now this fellow had said about all he was going to say and asked that I leave. He turned and walked away toward whichever vehicle he was living in, and I quickly made several exposures and got back in the truck and headed back to Taos. I was later told by someone in the campground where we were staying that that was a pretty rough place to stop and that I should be very careful. Yes, I thought, another close call, but I managed to get the image I wanted. I did ask the man if he would like to be included in the image I wanted to take and I got an unpleasant look in return.
I still have the image I made back in Virginia of the lovely corn shocks in the snow. He threatened to take me to court if I used the photograph, and I can still remember telling him that I would look forward to chatting with the judge. End of conversation. He was one of my neighbors at the time and died several years later. This was during the mid seventies.
Bottom line! Always be prepared for the unexpected. And having two rather large and active dogs in the truck gave me some additional comfort, because it was obvious that they did not like what they saw, and the windows were far enough down that they could have easily jumped out.
Left click on the image to enlarge the photograph.