Rebecca Wilks

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

Saturday, February 15, 2020

I Hate People

Well, I say that periodically, and there’s some truth in it, but I’ve been thinking about the flip side of that quip lately.

I do love the solitude and peace that landscape photography provides. Sometimes I think the photography is secondary.

But, you know, quite a few opportunities have appeared because I can use a camera and am curious. Through photography I've learned about peoples' passions. I started thinking about this during the Hashknife Pony Express shoot last week. Groups of people are devoted to their enthusiasm and photography blesses me with a way to glimpse that world.

The next example that popped up was shooting hoop dancers at the Heard Museum as part of an Arizona Highways Photoscapes workshop. I particularly appreciated meeting the Jensen family. Kailayne was five years old here. Now she’s 12 and won the junior division of the Hoop Dance World Championship this month. Her brother Tyrese is a many-time champ as well. He took second this year.
The eagle hunters of Western Mongolia are devoted to keeping their spectacular brand of falconry alive. Without photography I probably never would have landed there last fall and gloriously immersed myself in that culture.

Rotary has put me in touch with some heart-warming humanitarian projects and the dedicated people who move them forward. There’s microcredit in Nogales Mexico, an orphanage in South Africa, and wheelchair distribution to the poor in Hermosillo.
And, of course, there’s the Guatemala Literacy Project which keeps my husband and me returning over and over.

Some of you might recall a morning I spent with the desert tortoise experts from Arizona Game and Fish, clambering around in the Tonto Forest helping with their population survey.

Finally, after 15 years as a medical volunteer at Camp Not-A-Wheeze, I was able to spend a couple of sessions as camp photographer, highlighting the dedication of those who pulled it together and sharing the fun the campers were having. I played a similar role at Rotary’s RYLA leadership camp for teenagers.

You’re not likely to find me shooting weddings any time soon, but you might convince me that people are not always so bad, especially the passionate ones.

Thursday, February 6, 2020


I almost didn’t go.  The wind across interstate 40 in northern Arizona was gusting over 60 MPH.  My curiosity got the better of me, though, so I tackled the drive.  The route I choose only included 30 miles of the interstate.  Even so, there was a semi on its side. 

No harm, no foul.  The Subaru and I made it to Holbrook intact.

My friend Greg McKelvey is friendly with Mark Reynolds, the captain of the Hashknife Pony Express.  These guys are riding the 62nd annual commemorative run, which takes its honorific from an iconic Arizona cattle brand, now owned by the Babbitt Family.  They ride Holbrook to Payson, then Payson to Fountain Hills, and finally to Scottsdale, in one-mile increments. Greg has created a win-win situation with Mark, so that a small group of photographers had the opportunity to do an exclusive early morning shoot with two of the riders.  In return, we agreed to share our best work with them for publicity and personal use.

Meet Shawn Maestas (on the white mare) and Wade Carlisle (riding the chestnut).

The riders carry actual U.S. Mail, and are sworn in as Postal Workers.

The experience was extraordinary.  Though I agree with a friend who asked, “so, why do they do it in February?”  It was good and cold at sunrise.

There were demonstrations of the mail bag hand-off, after which (while still galloping) both riders yell “Hashknife!”  We photographed horse and rider speeding along and some quiet moments as well.

We were working for a couple of hours, but it was over before I knew it.  I was past Winona on the way home before my feet thawed, though.

By the way, a hashknife is an old cowboy chuckwagon tool which looks something like a mezzaluna.

There’s more in the Winter 2019-2020 Gallery on the website.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Gratitude and the Demonic Squirrels

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Driving away from my third and final camp in the California desert last week, I felt luxurious waves of gratitude.  I had enjoyed precious time in the wilderness and solitude.  I have the means to share gratitude with anyone interested in looking, through photographic images.  My spouse encourages me to do these things, which in itself is no small blessing.

“I am 20 miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness is a quiet exultation.” - Edward Abbey

The details are also worthy of gratitutde; winter sunshine and the sounds of coyotes hunting, unrushed time to contemplate, and the mundane blessings of nighttime propane heat and shelter from the wind.

“And we see more if we go to those obscure places, the ones with primitive roads and no facilities, because then we face this warp and woof of time alone in silence and with only the bubbling of love and memories to keep us company.” Charles Bowden

When I stumble on quotes which resonate, I enshrine them in my journal.  Recently I noticed a thread among them, about encountering gratitude and a muse in the quiet places.  Though they may appeal most to the introverts among us, they contain the footprints of universal truth.

“Art doesn’t happen unless you can rest enough to take the time “ ~Christa Sadler

“I travel in wild country a great deal, often alone, and my friends find this to be fatally eccentric, although they use the more polite term “stupid.” They feel sorry for me because I miss the fun of camping in groups, same sex or mixed. Perhaps I am too cranky to know any better. I go afield to calm myself, to sort out the demonic squirrels in my head.” ~Ellen Meloy

Here’s to the cranky and to calming the Demonic Squirrels, Ellen.  Cheers.

As usual, there’s more on the website.