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Scouring New Mexico for unusual angles

“Butte Near Abiquiu” by Jim Wysong. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Community College)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The butte near Abiquiú rises above the rocky landscape, stabbing the middle of a frame between the Pedernal and the painted cliffs of Kitchen Mesa.

The site is two miles south of Ghost Ranch.

“You’ve got the classic Georgia O’Keeffe images there,” photographer Jim Wysong said. “Most people have never seen this from this angle.”

On weekdays, Wysong oversees academic operations at the Santa Fe Community College School of Liberal Arts, and the School of Arts, Design and Media Arts. The weekends find him scouring New Mexico for unusual angles of landmarks amid its rocky terrain.

Forty of Wysong’s black-and-white prints are on display in the online SFCC exhibition “Southwest Monochromes” through Aug. 12 at

A former geosciences professor of 25 years in Tampa, Florida, he prefers a more creative outlet to pushing papers.

“The photography is actually a relief from the things I deal with,” Wysong said. “I’ve been coming out here since I was 9 years old.”

“El Creston Man” by Jim Wysong. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Community College)

The photographer grew up in central Florida, where his grandmother presented him with a Kodak Instamatic when he was 9 years old. At 11, he set up a darkroom in his clothes closet. In high school, his talents balanced his interest in science with photography.

“I liked to be able to capture things that I could look at and study later, and see things from different angles that escaped most people’s attention,” Wysong said.

The photographer moved to Santa Fe a year ago after serving as dean of associate of arts for the Dale Mabry Campus of Hillsborough Community College.

He had always wanted to move here. His parents took him to New Mexico as a child. As a professor, he ran twice-yearly geology trips to the state.

“I always said I was going to find an opportunity here,” he said.

He prefers to work in black and white.

“The first people think is, ‘You live in a land of fantastic color’,” Wysong said. “The color and the lighting in this landscape can be overwhelming. Underneath that are forms and textures.”

You can see those textures in the rocks of “El Creston Man,” taken on a massive volcanic ridge southeast of Santa Fe near Galisteo. The ancient Native Americans preferred basalt as a canvas.

“On that big feature, there are thousands and thousands of petroglyphs,” Wysong said. “I saw these turkey tracks inscribed in the rock and (they) led me to him.”

His image of the California mission-style “Glorieta Station” recalls the time when the current post office was an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad station as a tourist stop for Fred Harvey’s “Indian Detours,” guided excursions to ruins, Civil War sites and dude ranches.

“That station is such a treasure,” Wysong said. “You can’t see it from the road.”

“The Divided Sky” by Jim Wysong. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Community College)

His haunting “Divided Sky” is a personal favorite. It captures the smoke of California wildfires as it streamed through a blue sky at the old Galisteo Cemetery.

“The jet stream was so distinct that part of the sky was blue and clear, and the rest was smoky,” the photographer said.

Wysong plans to continue his “Southwest Monochromes” series, as well as embark on some new projects.

“I hope to document the last vestiges of the old railroad lines,” he said. “They’ve pulled up most of the rails, but you can still see the tracks. You can find the spikes sometimes. I call that my abandoned railroad or railroad archaeology project.”

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