Friday, May 4, 2007


Another spring another trip to Supai. For being so far out of the way these trips have almost become a habit. This time I went down with John Telford and his wife Valerie. We met up with my roommate Mike Goates at the rim. Mike has been working at the Grand Canyon this summer tracking the Mexican Spotted Owl. Apparently it is illegal but if you want a good laugh have Mike do the bird call for the spotted owl, it's great. We reserved a mule from the rim this time to make it easier for Valerie...and John. Last time he went down with me he took like an 80-90 pound pack that almost killed him. I decided to protect him from himself.

On this trip I decided I wanted to try something a little different. It is so easy to go and photograph the waterfalls. That is what everyone goes to see. That is what I usually end up doing. There has been an element that has always been missing from my images and that is I have always been intrigued by the stewards of the falls. I like those that are able to call Supai home. So I decided to photograph the inhabitants of Supai village. Instead of just walking through the village I wanted to spend more time there. The first person I photographed was Anthony. He was a horse handler and was a fun guy to photograph. He had a lot of personality and was constantly joking and telling stories. But after Anthony I realized that most people were unwilling to be photographed.

This is one of those moments where you can put yourself in another's position. They hate the camera. Not in some soul stealing way but in the fact that there home is a tourist trap and the people have become a novelty that the tourists photograph like they would at the zoo. Nobody asks permission they just start photographing. For the horse handlers its even worse because they will be hauling loads up the trails and people will step out in front of them to take pictures of the horses. If you are a rational person that has been to Havasupai you will have realized that the horses run on autopilot and will not stop or change directions for idiots with or without cameras. When you hear them coming you get out of the way. This made my plan more difficult. Nobody would model for me. On Sunday me and Mike decided to hike up to the village and go to church. (Yes I may have had some ulterior motives but I did go to church) I hoped more of the natives were members but I was disappointed. There were only a few members, the majority of the people in attendance were tourists. I did notice one small white family that seemed to belong. I started to talk to them. Turns out that the dad was a school teacher in the Havasupai school and their family lived in the village. I explained my intentions and they agreed to help introduce me to people.

There names were Craig & Theresa Boss. I ended up knowing Theresa from Campus Plaza back in the day. I had borrowed some climbing equipment from her when I was taking a group out. Small world. The first guy we met was actually a member of the church and was quite cooperative. His name was Leo. I learned from him that the Supai word for "cheese" translates as "cow's milk yellow." We took the picture right out in front of the restaurant where he had been sitting in the shade. The light was beautiful there. After Leo though we started to struggle again. Craig said if I came to school the next day and gave a demo about photography we could take some pictures as part of it. So we packed up and went back to camp. The next day we went back into the village and went to school. It seemed awfully quite for a school day. I soon discovered that the lunch lady didn't come in so they canceled school. I couldn't believe it. I remember having the bus follow a snow plow to get to school and they cancel because the lunch lady wasn't there. Oh well.

Theresa decided since the kids were out of school they may be at the village swimming hole. To try and get the kids to cooperate I hopped right in and started playing with them. I finally pulled out my big camera (Thinking back this was kind of insane.) and took it right down into the river. With the tripod on the bottom of the river my camera had about an inch and half of clearance above the water. I was letting kids help push buttons and play with the camera because they were still not cooperative. As a result of all these variables this is the only one that turned out, but I quite liked it.

The last image I was able to make was of these two little kids riding on a horse led by there mom on the way home from the store.There mom stopped the horse and let me set up the camera. You probably can't read it but the sticker the little girl is touching on her leg says 'feeling.' It was a little touch that I liked. With my original plan only partially successful I did spend more time at the falls. This time I started to work my way down towards Beaver Falls which I haven't done since my first time here. I kind of regret not having gone down sooner. It was really beautiful down there. It had lots of opportunities for photographs. I would like to go down again (obviously) and spend some more time down in that area.

I think we converted Valerie to the merits of the helicopter. The hike in messed up her knee and she wasn't able to get around very well. Sadly she spent most of the trip in the camp. Her and John rode mules out but I don't think she enjoyed that much more than the hike. The mules only know one speed and it turned out to be an uncomfortable one when you have a sore knee. Especially when your trying to use your legs to avoid developing a sore back side.

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