Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Los Albaricoques

The Apricots at Grand Canyon; Rebecca, Javier, Rony, Geoff
Its just the word for apricots in Spanish, but it took so long to learn, it sort of became our group nickname.

I was accepted as an Associate Photographer in Through Each Other’s Eyes a couple of years ago.  The organization encourages people around the world to understand and appreciate diverse cultures through photography. We do international exchanges, exhibitions, and educational programs.

I confess that this exchange with Guatemalan Photographers was one of my main motivations for joining; an opportunity to work with and learn from them.

My readers will know, of course, that my husband and I have spent some time in Guatemala.  Rony Mejia is the country director of the nonprofit we support and has become a friend over the years.  Fortuitously, he’s a photographer.  I think Rony and I may have started to talk about this before I was officially a TEOE Associate.  Maybe quite a while before. Now we’ve completed the first half of this adventure which I couldn’t have pulled together without him.

Gold King Mine, Jerome Arizona
My Arizona partner in the endeavor is Geoff Reed.  He and I became Associates at the same time, so we were grateful for the guidance we got from the elders in the organization as we planned our itinerary.

Javier Alvarez Vassaux is our second Guatemalan photographer, rounding out our team of four.

​We thought we knew what to expect during our Arizona travels, but we experienced some remarkable and surprising things.

Mexican Gold Poppy, Lake Pleasant
I don’t suppose I thought too much about the name, Through Each Other’s Eyes, before our exchange.  We found that Arizona looked different to them (through their eyes).  For example, Geoff and I were excited about the profusion of annual wildflowers this year.  Rony and Javier were a bit puzzled by this because they come from a country where there are always flowers.  For them, the vast landscapes and unique geology were much more interesting.

With Kerrick James (left) in Tucson.
Rony made the point that we all got to know each other more quickly than he expected.  We introduced the two of them to as many photographers as we could (more on that later) and found that the common ground we share allowed us to feel a connection remarkably easily. We are all geeks of the same tribe.

At the Arizona State House with Maurice Sartirana (left) and Chuck Fitzgerald (right)
TEOE Associates and other folks, generous with their time, transformed our exchange to a rare and rich experience.  At various times, we traveled with Associates Gina Santi, Mark Lipszynski, Maurice Sartirana, and Kerrick James.  

Sunrise, Monument Valley
Ron Chilston and Jay Kinsella (Jerome Historical Society) gave us the insider tour of Jerome. Alan Fitzgerald introduced us to Art Intersection in Gilbert and we saw the fascinating current exhibit, “Light Sensitive.” Navajo Photographer LeRoy DeJolie talked with us about his most recent project and about being Dineh (Navajo). Guide Danny Woods safely navigated us through a gale on Lake Powell and Ray Begay dazzled us with views of Monument Valley. Chuck Fitzgerald, Sergeant-at-arms of the Arizona State House of Representatives, showed us the inside workings there.

Cold on Lake Powell.  Captain Danny Woods, left. Mark Lipczynski, right
We experienced the extremes of weather typical of an Arizona Spring, from temperatures in the 40s and blowing whitecaps on Lake Powell to the 80s in the desert.  Between layering up and loaned clothes, we managed to stay reasonably warm, if not always dry. Javier in particular seemed to not have been in that kind of cold before.  We were all pleased to return to short-sleeve weather.

Mission San Xavier Del Bac
There were some moments of serendipity.  Javier had mentioned that he’d like to photograph a roadrunner.  Delightfully, there was one at the Titan Missile Museum which seemed to be habituated to humans.  The bird approached to within 8 feet or so.  Rony, a big baseball fan, ran into hall of fame player Rollie Fingers and scored a selfie.  At San Xavier Del Bac, there was a powwow happening.  Though we weren’t allowed in, we did have the pleasure of photographing sunset to the sound of powwow drums.  I had a chuckle when the nice man at the gate, with a big smile and three teeth, asked we whether I was there to dance.  We also happened on an Arizona Photographic legend, Larry Lindahl, at a viewpoint in Sedona.

Tucson Barrio Viejo Detail
Our culinary experience was varied as well. We had special experiences like Arepas at Gina’s house and sushi (the Blue Buddha in Page is surprisingly good), hurried fast food like Taco Bell and Subway, A Navajo Taco in Kayenta, and Rony’s Pepian and Jocón  tacos at our welcome party.  Oh, and lots of good beer. And on the road, we had a few albaricoques secos.

Addendum; what we did with Rony (Javier’s schedule differed a bit)

Desert Botanical Garden

Cactus League Baseball


Cooking traditional Guatemalan food

Hike at Lake Pleasant

Hike at Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Heard Museum

Jerome City Tour, Gold King Mine


Art Intersection (Gilbert) Gallery and lab tour

Tempe Camera


Tempe Town Lake

Page; Little Cut, Glen Canyon Dam, Dam overlook

Dinner with LeRoy DeJolie

Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge

Monument Valley, Grand Canyon South Rim

Tour of Arizona State House of Representatives

More Shopping

Tucson; Titan Missile Museum, Center for Creative Photography, Barrio Viejo, Mission San Xavier Del Bac

Downtown photo walk

Scottsdale photo walk

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Regresé a Parker

Mojave Desert, California
OK, sorry.  I’m brushing up on my Spanish language skills.  Some Guatemalan friends are coming for a couple of weeks.  But more on that in a later post.

In English, “I returned to Parker,” The Arizona town on the Colorado River. 

The alarm went off at 3:30 AM (I had to set it manually because Siri insisted on 3:30 PM).  I hit the road at 4:00 and got to the flowers, just a bit outside town, in plenty of time for sunrise.  I shot there for a couple of hours and was home before 11:00.

Dune Flowers, Near Parker Arizona

A five-hour round-trip for flowers.  Even I thought the idea was a little crazy, but I knew that if I didn’t I’d probably regret it.

Desert Gold Blooming, Mojave Desert California

Two days earlier I’d driven back from a couple of nights desert camping in California.  There was quite a bloom going on there, too.

I saw this spot from the road, pulled an excited u-turn, and made some images.  Unfortunately it was mid-day and sunny, so the light was harsh.  I carry a portable diffuser (a translucent white disk) which allowed me to modify the light to photograph small areas. Wider shots which included the sky weren’t working for me, though.  I wanted to get back for that, but I’d have to be quick; spring flowers are ephemeral around here.

Primrose and Verbena, Near Parker Arizona

It was lovely, if a bit overcast for my taste (something can always be better, you know.)  Birdcage Evening Primrose (the white flower) and Desert Sand Verbena (the purple one) often grow together in sandy places.  In good years like this one, they grow in profusion. As if their sheer beauty wasn’t enough, the verbena’s scent is intoxicating.

Desert Lily, Near Parker Arizona

There were even a few Desert Lilies, a particularly elegant flower that also favors dunes.

I’m playing catch-up now, paying for the time on the road, but without regrets.