I met Kelly Kramer, Managing Editor of Arizona Highways back in 2010 when I was working on the 100 Years 100 Ranchers project. Photography Director, Jeff Kida wanted to feature the project in the magazine.. He introduced me to Kelly so that she could write the lead story for the project that would culminate in featuring the project in 12 consecutive issues leading up to Arizona's Centennial in February, 2012. Kelly came to the Rancher House, a 1927 Adobe home on Camelback Road in September, 2010 to interview me. As we continued to work together on this project Kelly coined the term , "Righteous" . Although it is a bit of an inside joke, it is an appropriate term to describe her. Finding a great editor and writer who treats your work with respect, and truly understands your work is rare. After the rancher series I started to bring stories to Arizona Highways. I always make a note when I am out on the road and meet someone who I think may have an interesting story that will work for the magazine. The first story I brought to Kelly was on the author, Jim Harrison. I had a very serendipitous meeting with Jim. I was working on the rancher project in Santa Cruz County, just outside of Patagonia , Arizona. I was on my way to visit a ranch outside of town, and slowed down as I was crossing Sonoita Creek early in the morning. I looked up the creek, and there was a man mid-stream wearing a tattered hunting jacket, holding a wading staff as his 2 bird dogs played in the creek. I remember waving and saying good morning as I drove through the creek. It was only later at the ranch that I realized i had just said good morning to Jim Harrison . I was told by the ranchers that he wrote everyday in that old ranch house for 25 years. Before I left to go out to the branding Jim came by the ranch to write, and I was formally introduced to him. The first person I called was Kelly. We then worked to get Jim scheduled for a profile in Arizona Highways. One year later Kelly and I ventured back to Patagonia. When we arrived we went out back with Jim ( so he could smoke) , and Kelly spoke with him for quite a while. I had made the decision to not take a camera out back. I just wanted to sit, listen, and observe. I needed to get some final photographs before we left for the Wagon Wheel Saloon in town for a drink with Jim and some other writers ( mostly old war correspondents for Rolling Stone). I wanted to photograph Jim the way I remembered him that first morning a year earlier. I asked if we could go down to the creek. He agreed, and we walked down from his adobe. Jim's other dog had just passed away the week before . We photographed quickly so we could get to the Wagon Wheel . We chatted about good hunting dogs, quail, and flyfishing. I think Kelly and I realized this was one of those moments when you just kind of enjoy the ride. Kelly has a real talent for bringing out the "soul" of a story. Yes , I think "Righteous", is the right word to describe Kelly Kramer.
My 1955 twin lens Rolleiflex 2.8 F is my favorite tool. Yes, I said tool. For a photographer the camera is just that, a tool. It should feel comfortable in your hands , and should reflect your sensibilities of how you see. Yes, I have digital cameras for my editorial and commercial work, but this old, tattered Rolleiflex suits me. I am comfortable with the square format , and looking down into the viewfinder has always soothed me. The controls for changing aperture and shutter speeds are well placed, and are second nature to my hands. The quiet, almost inaudible click of the shutter lends itself to special moments. Winding the film advance crank forwards and then a half turn back solidifies the fact that I have just taken a photograph. Then there is the glass. It is hard to explain, but there really is something special about the 2.8 planar glass. It has a unique look that no algorithm can replicate. Mostly, this camera just feels right in my hands. I just shoot B&W film in it, and rarely use a light meter. It is a simple, straightforward, truthful camera. Below are two of my favorite images photographed with this camera.
Left: First Snow, Slade Ranch, Arizona, 1999
Right: Madre con nina , Oaxaca, Mexico, 2010
The Long Dirt Road has always been a place where I could think and reflect. Over the last ten years I have traveled many roads like these, often to ranches in Arizona. It was very cathartic for me not only photographically, but personally as well. Out on the road one can connect with new sights, sounds, and people. Most importantly you are presented with the opportunity to re-connect with yourself. As my friend author, Doug Peacock said in his book, Walking it Off, " I had to get out to get back in again."