I spent the last week in Denver, making some photographs and doing some writing. I am trying to put a new project together about growing up in Denver. I still haven’t processed the photographs, but I did write a little something about the photographs this morning. I’ve given this piece the working title Born in the New West.
Here is the statement I wrote this morning, still a work-in-progress. In the end, however, it’ll be with my own pictures – rather than these found online – as well as some more personal writings about my childhood in the city.
I grew up in Denver in the 1970’s, while Robert Adams was photographing his great trilogy of books, The New West, Denver, and What We Bought. These photographs represent a history I feel intimately, and the pictures reflect so much of my everyday life – car dealerships just up the street from my family home, mountain vistas just outside of the city – day trips on the weekends – and even a photograph of the apartment building my dad moved into when my parents first separated.
Then in the 80’s, Denver like Los Angeles was hit hard by gang violence. The Crips and Bloods had a choke hold on the city, and it was all centered around my high school. Drive-by shootings were commonplace, and the police were at the school daily. All kinds of drugs were readily available, the one thing all the different peer groups of the school had in common.
This same time, there was an active underground, industrial art scene. Focused around a great record store in the heart of the Denver, a music promoter named Tom Headbanger, and subversive occult movement born in Britain, there were art happenings and performances all around the warehouses in the then largely abandoned LoDo district, and the junk yards north of the city.
I later attended college in Colorado Springs, where I studied literature – classics and the modernists – as well as music – minimalism and Balinese gamelan.
I lived in Colorado for the first 26 years of my life, and as a skier and backpacker, I’ve really seen the State. When I go back today, I find myself excited by the city in so many ways – the light, the architecture, the mountains on the horizon – but mostly this excitement stems from an increased awareness as to how much of my identity lies in these everyday sights.