Santa Fe just wouldn’t be Santa Fe without cow skulls, strings of chili peppers, adobe walls, and Spanish churches. There’s also a lot of interesting characters mixed up in all this decor and bathed in the wonderful light of New Mexico. Today our photo assignment was to hang out at the Plaza in the center of town and try to capture images that evoke the essence of Santa Fe and tell a story at the same time. Now if you think about it, trying to tell a story with a single picture is hard to do. Really hard. We’re moving beyond snapshots here and climbing up to a new level. A WHOLE new level. Read on to understand why.
To help us prepare for the assignment, Kongo’s class at the National Geographic Photo Expedition Workshop stopped off to tour the Monroe Gallery to see this summer’s exhibition titled “Those who Dared” by award winning photographers, including our instructor for the workshop, Joe McNally. For anyone who came of age in the 60’s the powerful images of everything from Kent State to Marilyn Monroe and Bobby Kennedy brought back many memories and Kongo was soon happily humming Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan tunes in his head. The collection was truly inspiring and it was easy to understand what Joe (our instructor) was trying to get us to think about.
So, properly inspired, the monkey headed out to find a story and document it with his camera. What he found was a blockbuster, epic saga of true love, miracles, strange people, and dogs that drive cars.
This is Kongo’s story. Illustrated with photographs ripped fresh from the raw life drama being played out at the Plaza in Santa Fe.
It was a dark and stormy night…no, wait, that’s not right. The storm was LAST NIGHT and Kongo got soaked again but this is a whole new day and the sun is shining. The array of cow skulls at the top of this post are from a Lonesome Dove style trail drive that went horribly wrong. Kongo can almost hear the yip, yip cries of the cowpokes and imagine the stern look of Tommy Lee Jones when he learns the fate of all these little doggies. Are you with me? There are a bunch of dead cows in Santa Fe. This will be an important plot artifice later in the story.
The story behind these two cowboys is easy to imagine. They are remembering former glory days on the range as they settle into comfortable retirement. Are there any more trail drives in their future? Is there anything else? (Or, more likely, they are comparing notes about the tattoos on the backs of the two single women just off camera that were dancing with each other to the music of a grassroots band called something like Felix de los Gatos.) Soon these two will go to the cathedral to confess their cowboy sins but will be held up by an accident in front of the church. Read on.
This is the top of the St. Francis Cathedral. Kongo is sure there are plenty of stories in those confession booths but, of course, they are secret. Anyway, notice the observance of the “rule of thirds” and the use of triangles contrasting against an interesting sky. This is the kind of thing we talk about over lunch at the photo workshop. Seriously.
Joe McNally told us that you can’t take a bad picture of a fireman. With this is mind, Kongo snapped this driver of a Santa Fe fire engine as he passed by the Plaza. There weren’t any fires. Kongo is sure they were just cruising the square like a lot of other people to listen to the music and check out the people. If Kongo is ever caught in a burning banana tree he wants someone like this first responder to get him out of there! Events will soon transpire that will wipe that smile off the face of this friendly fireman.
The woman in a straw hat. Kongo is a romantic. He imagines that this Santa Fe damsel has arrived early for a rendezvous with her lover but he, unbeknownst to the lady under the hat, has just been struck while riding his motorcycle on the street in front of St. Francis cathedral by a car driven by a dog. The firemen in the engine that recently passed are now rushing to save him. The accident was caused because the dog can’t see over the steering wheel and he ran over a bunch of Tommy Lee Jones’ cows on Palace Avenue and then caromed into the motorcycle driven by the lover of the lady under the straw hat. The car driven by a dog finally came to a stop at a store that sells woven Indian baskets.
The car driven by a dog. You can’t make this stuff up in Santa Fe.
A little alley shop sells traditional Indian baskets woven from desert grasses and sticks and bushes. These baskets were all knocked askew when the car driven by the dog crashed into the adobe walls of the store. The blood red coloring used to decorate the baskets reminds Kongo of all the blood in the street from the accident just a block up the road where the firemen are trying desperately to save the life of the lover of the woman in the straw hat.
The adobe walls of the store that the car driven by a dog crashed into.
A boy in a balloon hat reacts to the carnage at the scene of the accident. Actually he was just a snotty intermediate school wannabe who passed Kongo on a bench and said, “hey, wanna take MY picture?” Kongo obliged him. The monkey thinks this turned out to be one of his best efforts all evening.
An Alice in Wonderland cast begins to pour out of the adobe walls of Santa Fe to rush to the accident scene. These two rescue dogs are on the way to see if they can render any aid to the lover of the woman under the straw hat. (These are not really rescue dogs. They are just a couple of pooches who ride Harleys and you KNOW there is a story behind this canine road trip)
And the band played on despite the tragedy up the road. Begin humming bye, bye, Miss American Pie…
It’s a miracle! and it goes to show that if you’re going to be hit on your motorcycle by a car driven by a dog you want to be in front of an old cathedral.
The lover of the woman under the straw hat was revived by the slobbery licking of the two rescue dogs on the motorcycle, and the man was finally reunited with the woman under the straw hat who turned out to be a biker queen who has a pissed off look because she was left in the park for three sets of Felix de los Gatos. Come to think of it, the lover doesn’t look too happy either. They are definitely giving the monkey the evil eye. They better keep their eye on the road or they’re going to have another tragedy when they run over a bunch of dead cows laying in the road around the next corner. Tommy Lee Jones and the rest of the cow pokes, including the two old codgers who finally finished confession, are not going to be too happy with this star-crossed couple! So, since this is Santa Fe and everyone is mellow, they get over it, wipe the dog slobber off their faces and ride happily into the sunset which is how all stories in this part of the country end, right?
And Kongo really, really liked the boots of the lady under the straw hat who turned out to be a biker queen.
Travel safe. Have fun.
(This is not a really a true story. Everyone knows biker queens do not wear straw hats)