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Saturday, 29 February 2020 13:06

House Made of Earth

When the entourage of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to what is now Northern New Mexico in 1540, the inhabitants of the Village of Taos Pueblo had been living along that portion of the upper Rio Grande Valley for perhaps 250 years, maybe longer. By 1680, the oppression and heavy-handedness of the Spanish would ignite the Tiwa-speaking Tanoans and their allies, including nearly all of the Puebloans spread across the Rio Grande and beyond, even as far west as Hopi, into a rebellion for survival. The primary strategist and spiritual inspiration for the revolt was Po'pay, who although from the Village of Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan), removed himself to remote Taos around 1675 to plan and execute the uprising. These events can rightfully be called the first American Revolution, and even though the Spanish would retake Nuevo Mexico in 1692, the long-lasting outcome for the Puebloans would be a recognition of their rights to religious self-determination and practice.

The stark elements of this Image determined me to process it as a black & white using Silver Effects Pro, a Nikware filter set from DxO. A focal length of 60mm, just slightly beyond true "normal," gave me the angle-of-view I wanted and a wee bit of magnification/compression. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/10th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Taos Pueblo is one of the longest continuously inhabited cities in what became the United States. It is a spiritual gem surrounded by the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande Valley, with Carson National Forest thrown in for good measure. If you find yourself in Taos County, set aside a day to visit Taos Pueblo. It will elevate your humility factor.

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7 comments

  • Comment Link Donald McGowan Thursday, 05 March 2020 18:27 posted by Donald McGowan

    Good afternoon Everyone. Thank you all very much for joining me for this conversation. Isn't it amazing that the Vernal Equinox is barely more than two weeks away, although the hardwoods at the head of Beaverdam Valley have been sending out blushes of color for at least a week now, especially the maples, beeches, and birches.
    Hey Kev. You must have gotten up even earlier than usual (kidding). I absolutely love being the harbinger of memories, especially positive ones, but even melancholy ones are sometimes okay; and the memories you have described, of times with your kids when they were young, are among the priceless ones. Isn't it wonderful that images have the power to offer us this experience, even images that are only indirectly related to the memories they evoke. I can relate to that idea completely, and I even find it to be true sometimes when I'm only looking through a viewfinder. We never know what a narrowing of the visual field can bring us from deep within our past experience. And I truly believe that regardless of the nature of the memory, there is always something of value that we receive.
    Hi Ray. Thank you, as always, for joining us and for your interesting description of the composition of this Image. It is always helpful to arrive at Taos Pueblo as early as possible because its charm and historical significance draw crowds nearly every day of the year. I was glad to arrive early and to have the chance to wander the community with very little to impede opportunities to be creative. And even though filled with the "hand of man," the elements and principles of composition that I appreciate and teach still apply as strongly as if I were up on Wheeler Peak in the snowfield we can barely see.
    Howdy John. It's always good to have you with us, and I am very glad you appreciate this monochrome. Even as colorful and beautiful as is the Red Rock Country of the Southwest, we know from a long line of great artists that monochrome images of the area have a power and an allure that are impossible to deny, that, in fact, serve to enhance that power often in ways that color cannot quite achieve. I hope you are well.
    Hey Chuck. It's always good to hear from you. It was my honor and privilege to have you with us on that adventure to the Southwest because I know how strongly that land resonates with you. We did, indeed, have a wonderful time in the Red Rock, and I completely agree about the power of black and white imagery to bring out aspects such as texture that color imagery might otherwise obscure. Yes, indeed, each state within the union was allotted two statues to be displayed in Statuary Hall; and the State of New Mexico selected a rendition of Po'pay as one of its pair. I can't imaging a more appropriate choice. We look forward to seeing you in June. Walk in Beauty.
    Hi Nancy T. What I know to be true is that you always glean very much from relatively little; and this always manifests to our benefit. Your knack for intuiting the feelings of all of the creatures in an Image always leaves me with satisfaction and a deeper understanding of the elements that I have brought together. Hills do, in fact, always talk to me, as does each and every other aspect of the natural world. They are, to be sure, alive. For all of the trauma brought upon their lives by Caucasian oppression and excess, the Tanoans are a serene and thoughtful people. I am grateful to have had a chance to walk among them. Talk soon.
    Howdy Donald. It's always great to have you with us. I don't think Ansel ever had a portfolio published in Life; but he may have had a cover. You are absolutely right on about the starkness of black and white, which, in my mind, is part of its power to draw us in. I have some thoughts about connecting you and Taos that I'll share later. I'm not sure of your current whereabouts, but wherever you are, I hope you are having a great, creative time. Walk in Beauty, my friend.
    Thank you all, again, for your thoughtful and perceptive comments. I am encouraged to think about adding more B&W offerings to the image mix. Be well Everyone.

  • Comment Link Donald E Newsom Monday, 02 March 2020 17:12 posted by Donald E Newsom

    This image reminds me so much of others I remember from my childhood -- did Life magazine ever publish Ansel Adams? -- that piqued my interest in the American southwest. The starkness of black & white just grabbed me, and still does. Taos Pueblo is a place I have to get to.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 01 March 2020 18:58 posted by Nancy Tripp

    If those hills could talk! Thanks for sharing this image, your thoughts about composing it and the history. It is perfect in black and white; color would have been a distraction. Did the hills talk to you? When do you have time for all the research on the history of all these places? The image is trying to speak to us and I think one would have to study it for a very long to even begin to to understand. It is very deep, and emotional. It looks like the inhabitants were proud and probably very affluent in their day. The structures were carefully structured to be symmetric as well as strong. After all, they are still standing and still look good for their age. That is what I am guessing from a short visit with your image. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Comment Link Chuck Sunday, 01 March 2020 14:10 posted by Chuck

    Ah yes, opened up this weeks image and it took me back six years ago when we spent most of a month together and I had my first visit to Taos Pueblo. What a wonderful place to shoot. Images from that visit are among some of my favorites. There are a number of images taken at Taos that almost ask to be converted to black and white. I think it really emphasizes the DOF and textures. And thank you for introducing the great organizer and leader of the First American Revolution who is enshrined in the National Statuary Hall in DC.

  • Comment Link John D. Roach Sunday, 01 March 2020 09:59 posted by John D. Roach

    A very nice monochrome!

  • Comment Link Ray Foote Sunday, 01 March 2020 09:19 posted by Ray Foote

    Don, I really like this image. It tells a story of a very old civilization, and of a relationship to the land around its settlement. The composition is wonderful, including the "landscape" of the dwellings and ovens, the excellent left side anchor, and the gentle leading of the eye to the right. Most enjoyable!

  • Comment Link Kevin Desrosiers Sunday, 01 March 2020 09:05 posted by Kevin Desrosiers

    This picture brought back memories of something different for me, the Missions in California. When my kids were in grade school there they had projects where they studies and built replicas of the various Missions. It was both fun and sad studying them with my children. Thanks for bringing back great memories. Absolutely love making this B&W instead of color. Also appreciate the depth of filed so you got the texture on the buildings, as well as in the clouds. Both add quite a bit to the picture. Thanks again for the trip down memory lane, even if it wasn't directly what your picture was about.

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