I think it’s probably my J school training showing up, but I can’t seem to take a picture of something or somewhere without doing some research to see if there is a story.
Most of the time there is. It may not be an earth-shaking story, but I want to know the back story behind what I am shooting.
I’m re-shooting some shots of a few small towns in the plains of Colorado. I have some results I am not happy with of some, and some other film was ruined in development. This has been a step forward and two back pretty consistently. But I’m learning about a part of Colorado I’ve never spent time in and learning more about a type of photography I never did before.
I’ve learned that a particular abandoned gas station I’ve shot was once a Conoco opened in the 1950s by a man named Don Cooper. The abandoned tourist court next door, the Prairie Lodge, was run by the Calvert family.
Shooting this summer has been as much a research project as anything else. I’ve been looking through things so much and tagging maps online I’m considering getting a larger state map to put on the wall to mark shoot locations and cross-reference them with histories.
I’m not self-aggrandizing enough to think that my actions are helping to immortalize these histories. I’m not doing it for that. I do it because I enjoy discovering. There hasn’t been a place I’ve discovered yet that hasn’t had at least one story that I found that I didn’t like reading, finding or hearing.
There are a legion of stories of miners and how they entertained themselves in far away nooks and crannies of mountains. Most of what I have found of the plains has been more recent, tied to changes in the way we travel, but they are still interesting. How a place came to be first because of the railroads needing to water their steam engines and exchange goods, to providing gas and lodging on state highways, to everything closing up when the interstate passed a place by.
I hope to have something to show for my efforts this winter, when this project ends. I won’t stop looking for and listening to the stories, though. Steinbeck once said the world is peopled with wonders. I feel in most places, the wonders are the people and their stories.
Stories and wonder