Mission: Wolf is a sanctuary in southern Colorado that cares for wolves and wolf/dog hybrids. The wolves have all been bred in captivity, mostly raised to be pets but then have been given up because of laws against them or people not being able to care for them. Most of them get put down but a lucky few get to go to places like Mission: Wolf. It is a lot of work caring for twenty or so wolves and it is done by an dedicated and all volunteer staff that live off the grid for years at a time. Though penned up the wolves live their lives in relative comfort, living much longer than wolves normally do in the wild. These wolves can never be released into the wild as they were born in captivity and have never learned to survive in the wild. The wolves are used to educate people about wild wolves and in hopes of preventing the misunderstandings that people often have about them. You can come and visit with the wolves at Mission: Wolf and they also take some of them around the country each year and put on demonstrations at schools and other places.
“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain."
― Aldo Leopold
I took these pictures on some Sierra Club trips to Mission: Wolf where we spent the weekend helping to care for and interacting with the wolves. For me the wolves here are both wild and captive, there is the reality of the wolves living behind fences but at the same time there is the wildness that still remains within each wolf. You can sense this when you are in their presence, you can hear it in their howl and you can see it in the photos. There is a tension between the wolves as iconic symbol of wilderness and seeing pictures of them behind a fence. At once about their defiance to ever be tamed and about our seeming unending need to control everything in our world. Maybe this is also what Leopold saw and talked about in his famous quote, maybe it is time we looked harder.
Wildlife is important out here in the west, it has been written about, painted, sculpted and photographed. For as long as people have been here the wildlife has had an important place in our society. It has been studied, worshiped, feared and slaughtered. In a modern society our relationship with it has become more complex. It's existence is now often determined by governments influenced by big money, large corporations and other organizations. no longer is much of it really wild but exists in small controlled areas. There are less and less places that are not touched by man.
Somehow though we still feel that wildlife is sacred, so much so that even after we kill it for sport we stuff and mount it and put it on display. Not sure how killing animals honors them but seems like a lot of people think that it does. We seem to think that we need to control them as if some how nature doesn't know what it is doing. In various places in the west I find displays of these stuffed game animals, interesting enough a lot of them seem to be in stores that sell the guns that you need to kill them in the first place. What we are left with are pictures that display a strange contardiction between life and death, real and unreal. The pictures change our relationship to wildlife again, not sure anymore real or not, are we creating a world that really no longer exists? Is this what we really want?
Celebrations, Festivals and Fairs
Growing up in the midwest there was always some kind of festival going on, county fairs, state fairs, celebrations around different holidays, parades, sporting events and on and on. Often some of the happy times of our lives, and often on display for everyone to see, they are great places to photograph. I look for the smaller more local events when possible, it seems that I get better access but also because they are much more honest and true.
These pictures often show me the layers of our society different people, different interests how everything mixes together. Often with a Street Photography feel these photographs open up these different events, expose what it is that we do there and lets us see it all from a different place. Often times these are events that I would not normally go to but the camera brings me into things as though I belong, lets me photograph from the inside. Grouped together these photographs offer a view of our time and place of the mix that makes us whole.
Holiday Home Tour
When I was young one of the things that we did during the holidays was to all get in the car and drive around town and look at all of the lights and decorations that people put up on their homes and in their yards. Since I first started photographing I have always been drawn to these displays and have photographed them. I find them often peculiar and strange, full of contradictions and meanings far beyond what we think of when we think of the birth of Christ. They have become entwined within our culture and represent one of the largest visual displays of the Christian Faith that we see in our society today.
I like the Color, the lights, the tacky, the weird and the strange, I am not sure what Jesus would think but for me I can't get enough of them. In a way they are a type of art, one of the largest and best viewed art shows of our time. Not to long ago this subject was only for the greatest of artists, Leonardo, Michelangelo etc. Now though anyone can go out and buy themselves a plastic glow-in-the-dark Madonna and put it out in their yard next to a giant inflatable cartoon character. Photographing them seems to bring to light even more all of the strangeness, the contradictions, the tacky, they seem to make fun of the religious holiday more often than they honor it. I think that there is still honor, I think that for most people that set them up it is to honor the holiday and for me it is an honor to record them.
Twinkie's Last Walk
It has been about ten years now since I first adopted Twinkie, she was a stray so we were never sure how old she was but we think that she is about fourteen now. She is the third Bassett Hound along with one Dachshund that I have had over the last twenty five years. Twinkie has many of the signs of old age now, the worst of which is cancer which she has had for about two years now. She has been through various treatments, surgery, chemo and radiation and for the most part has done well but we are now at the end of what we can do for her. It is now just a matter of making her as comfortable as we can and wait for what we know is coming.
Everyday I have taken my dogs for a walk, with Twinkie now it is a very slow walk as she doesn't move very fast anymore but she still loves her walk. We have walked in places over the years but mostly they are just close to our home, around our neighborhood along mostly the same paths. For the last couple of years I have been taking photographs of the places where we walk, sometimes I photograph things that I see and sometimes I try to photograph what I think that Twinkie sees. She doesn't walk on the sidewalk if she can help it and sticks her head into everything that we come across, she walks through any water that she can find and best of all is the snow.
When you walk by the same things day after day you have a lot of time to see what is there and how things change slightly each day. With Twinkie I often find myself looking at things that normally I would just go by but now I have to wonder what it is that she sees and smells that I cannot. We walk along the same path but the path is different for each of us. The pictures for me record the memories for me of the time we spent together and the places we walked. I know that the last walk is coming soon and that once alone I will still be able to feel her with me.