The little village of El Rito is nestled in the hills of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico not far from Abiquiu where Georgia O’Keeffe lived. The drive up from Santa Fe takes you past Camel Rock, through Espanola and past Hernandez where Ansel Adams made his iconic Moonrise Over Hernandez image in 1941. You parallel the Chama river for a way and then turn off the main highway and climb up through the hills past mountains and arroyos and sweeping vistas that are so inspiring and uplifting. El Rito is also the home of the oldest church in New Mexico.
The photographer David Michael Kennedy lives here in El Rito. David is an extremely accomplished photographer who focuses his personal vision in platinum/palladium printing. David was gracious enough to welcome me into his studio earlier this year to let me show him what I have been doing in my platinum printing efforts, answer my questions and offer suggestions. He openly gave two hours of his time to mentor and made my wife, daughter and I feel very welcome and comfortable in our visit.
This image was made on the iPhone when I wandered through the area back in June of 2015. It was a beautiful day with wonderful wind and clouds and storms in the area. I almost didn’t go very far out that day because the light seemed as though it was going to be disappointing. Then I wasn’t sure where I should head, but I gave my muse the lead as always and trusted that she knew where I was supposed to be. I had driven through the village taking in all of the things to see and had turned around to go back through again when I was presented with this view. I know a lot of people put down many of these filters that I use as being gimmicky, but for me it really helps to distill the image down to its essence and give it a timeless value that lets me transport to an earlier, simpler time.
But for a couple of the modern details such as the painted stripe down the middle of the road and metal gate on the left I can imagine myself rolling into the quiet little village somewhere back in the 1500’s of Coronado’s time. I can feel the sun on my face as I am riding along on my wagon, the wooden wheels crunching and creaking, the soft plod of my horses drawing me nearer to my destination. I am taking in the earthy smells of the fields around me and the lowing of the cows. There are chickens cackling in their run somewhere on the other side of that barn and I can hear children laughing and playing nearby in the pleasant cool of the late afternoon. The breeze is rustling the leaves of the cottonwoods and the smell of wood fires preparing the evening meals drifts into my senses. I am at peace with myself.
This image also serves to rekindle the memory of a great little story that I’ll share with you. I was leaning over a fence somewhere near here getting a picture of a storm over the hills and a field to the east of the town when a text popped up on the screen from my daughter Abby: “Hey Daddy, we’re really hungry, can you pick us up a pizza on your way back to the hotel?” “Well okay honey, but I’m probably an hour away from Santa Fe right now. The light is starting to fade though so I’ll be heading back soon.”
Arriving back in Santa Fe an hour or so later I was trying to think of where the nearest Pizza Hut was, that’s the usual default when you’re on the hunt for a pizza right? So I pulled up my friend Google on my phone and typed in ‘nearest pizza’. There was a place called Dion’s Pizza not far from me and they were still open for another 20 minutes. I popped in and ordered a large cheese pizza and sat and watched as the dough was hand tossed and then placed into an honest to God real pizza oven on a large paddle, not the stinky Pizza Hut conveyor thing! When I got to the hotel with that pizza the three of us sat around the box on the coffee table in front of the couch and devoured it with a delight and ecstasy that will live with us always. It was dark by then, the lights in the room were low and we sat quietly munching and muttering around bites about how wonderful it was. We finished that meal with a true feeling of satisfaction, and a Dion’s pizza is definitely on our list each time we go to Santa Fe now.
Little moments and memories like that are among the things that make life special and good. We all have them, and we should be collecting and sharing them often with ourselves, our friends and everyone else gathered around life’s storytelling campfire. The gift of storytelling was given to mankind by our maker and we should each treasure it for the special part of our humanity that it is.
(Originally published July 22, 2106)