Bruce Hucko is one of my favorite photogs, as a human being, an artist and a model of someone showing up and doing the work. Bruce defined a project for himself, to regularly photograph along a few hundred feet (637 paces) of Moab’s Mill Creek, near where he lives. The genius in this is that he chose a stretch that was accessible without drama, an entire weekend or a $50 tank of gasoline. The challenge is plain: by the way he defined the project, Bruce inherently eliminated most of the excuses (gear fetishness is another) that we as photographers allow, even cultivate, as creative blocks.
Maybe it’s a fault, but I am by nature a project-oriented photographer. You would think the Highway 89 project would have cured me of it. And I am really susceptible to envisioning complex and costly projects. I have three or four projects in various states of progress right now. All depend on things outside my control: other people’s schedules, the kindness of strangers I haven’t met yet, even the weather.
Ever since I heard Bruce talk about his project at the Moab Photo Symposium, I have been looking for my own metaphoric stretch of riverbank, something or someplace so accessible that even accounting for laziness, I will return to it often. I may have found it. It’s a rusty pile of junk. I adore rust and junk. And like my missing car keys, it was right under my nose.
Now this pile of junk has been sitting on the other side of the fence for as long as we have owned our parcel. Photog friends who visit all ask me longingly if the most prominent feature, a junked GMC truch, is mine. But I, a bred-in-the-bone respecter of private property boundaries, had not explored my neighbor’s scrap heap until I took over irrigation duties this year.
It turns out that the ditch we use has an easement across the adjacent parcel. And the tree that fell down took out a dang convenient bit of our shared fence. Now I have a reason to visit the junk pile at least every 5 1/2 days when it is our turn for water.
Honestly, there is no excuse not to go every day. It’s only 12 apple trees away from my front porch, and on the way to the post office and the general store, with a bakery turning out doughnuts every morning! I can bribe my inner artist with a maple bar most any day. Minor White said, “One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.” What a great way to start, asking myself what else I can see today.
Why I didn’t see it sooner, I do not know. Rusty relics fits a theme that runs through all of my work–what do we as individuals and as communities decide to keep, reinvent, or discard? Until the junkman cometh, I have a muse. Who knows where it will lead. Probably to more junk, that will be just fine.
No, the real crime is waiting for inspiration and not shooting. To paraphrase some advice from other quarters, if you are thinking about shooting some photos, then shoot some photos and think about them later.
Where can you find your 637 paces of riverbank?