Rebecca Wilks

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

Friday, May 17, 2024

Photography-related blessings


Moonset behind Ship Rock New Mexico

I keep thinking of a conversation the three of us had traveling the Four-Corners last month. Long driving trips are great for conversation, and this one, at least, deserves to see the light of day.

We agreed that photography, in addition to it's obvious benefits, has been a great way to learn about things and meet people that we otherwise would not.  These two great buddies are examples, and I can think of at least a half-dozen treasured friendships honed this way.  You know who you are, dear ones.


Hashknife Pony Express; Passing the mail bag

There’s more.  The first thing that sprung to mind was the Hashknife Pony Express shoot four years ago.  This classic Arizona re-enactment has a rich tradition.  I was invited to join a small group of photographers who would exchange our time and expertise (we gave them permission to use our best images for their publicity) for the opportunity to meet some of the riders and see the spectacle. Sean, Wade, and their horses were great and patient models.  A year or so later, Sean passed, and Wade was able to use some of the images for the memorial and as gifts to the family.


Verkamp's, Grand Canyon

When there’s a winter storm coming to the Grand Canyon, people leave the park in droves.  In fact, this is a great time to get a big walk-in discount on a room at the lovely El Tovar Hotel.  In February 2016, though, I had an opportunity to stay through the storm in the historic apartment above Verkamp’s Visitor Center on the South Rim.  Where do I start?  The view, history, artwork and journals from a long line of GC Artists-in Residence?  I treasured this rare opportunity, and will be forever grateful for my friend, a ranger, who invited me to stay there with her.


A couple of ranch-based photography workshops have allowed me to meet working cowboys and learn a lot about the life.  I’m grateful to Scott Baxter, a legend in ranch photography, for his guidance at X-Diamond Ranch near Springerville AZ, and to Lisa Langell and her team for the fun and varied weekend at Don Donnely’s D-Spur Ranch in Gold Canyon AZ. I’m still not much of a horsewoman, but I sure do appreciate the hard work and the spectacle involved in what the cowboys do.


Navajo Code Talker Kee Etsicitty

Travelling with Leroy DeJolie, legendary photographer of Navajo lands, is always remarkable.  There are so many stories, but the first one that springs to mind is an experience at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, the Nation’s capital.  Leroy introduced a few of us (lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time) to a World War 2 code talker named Kee Etsicitty.   He was kind enough to sign my code talker book (by Kenji Kawana, who Leroy also introduced us to, and who also signed the book) and Hosteen Etsicitty allowed my friend to record a short video as he told stories about the war. 


The Fallen, Yarnell Hill Fire

In July 2013, about a week after the devastating and deadly Yarnell Hill Fire, I staked out a spot on the route the 19 hearses took from Phoenix to Prescott.  I showed up early, they were late, and it was July in the desert.  The photo went viral, and I had a chance to meet and make prints for a couple of the folks driving in the procession.  The experience was powerful and tragic.


 Street market, Tecpan Guatemala

Regular readers know that I have strong ties to Guatemala.  Mostly my husband and I go there to work with an education nonprofit.  In 2019 I had the privilege of a different trip, a cultural exchange of photographers with Through Each Other’s Eyes.  I met people and saw things that I’d not had a chance to before and had the great fortune to share an exhibit with the others, meet The Phoenix Guatemalan Consul General, and share visual insights into this vibrant culture.


The list goes on. Thanks for the opportunity to share some of the stories of my favorite photography-related blessings with you.