Photography can peel back the known to reveal the unknown.
The 100 photographers chosen to exhibit in the CENTER 16th Annual International Review Santa Fe Photo Festival expose that mystery to discover images of tenderness and intimacy wrapped in horror as well as hope.
This year’s participants include five New Mexico photographers: Pojoaque’s Gabriella Marks, Albuquerque’s Noah McLaurine and Luke Montavon, Kim Richardson and Patricia Galagan of Santa Fe.
Those chosen come from as far away as Amsterdam, Toronto, London, Berlin, Tokyo and Melbourne, as well as across the U.S.
Three judges formed this year’s selection committee, including Jesse Burke of the Rhode Island School of Design, creative consultant Stella Kramer and Kymberly Pinder, dean of the University of New Mexico College of Fine Arts. They select about one in five of the entries for inclusion.
More than 40 professionals will serve as reviewers seeking new projects that can launch a career. They include representatives from The New Yorker, Time magazine, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Pojoaque photographer Gabriella Marks captured bucolic images of traditional northern New Mexico farming.
“There is something very real about people who are growing food,” she said, “especially folks who are trying to do it in a natural, organic way.”
Two men driving a team of mules in a Chimayó potato field resemble Amish farmers, their traditional hats and clothing accented by beards. They work despite the challenges posed by pests and drought.
“It’s about the people,” Marks said of her imagery. “The people are what bring the places alive. You can see the weight in their faces, and they’re people who get their satisfaction of working with their hands.”
Santa Fe’s Luke Montavon completed his college thesis through several trips to the rubbled and bullet-holed aftermath of Ciudad Juárez’s drug wars. He traipsed through buildings stripped of anything valuable, including wires, doors and windows, shooting images of the sad remnants of the people who once lived there.
“The main part of (the drug wars) were over,” he said. “The drug trade is still very much alive, but that wasn’t what I was focusing on. It’s a lot of architecture. In a large portion of it, the people are gone. My best estimate is in the 30,000 to 40,000 range. A lot of people have gone missing, and a lot have been forced to move.”
A close-up of a child’s abandoned homework near a crumpled American flag occurred high in the mountains above the city.
“All the windows were broken,” Montavon said. “I was always trying to search for something that could speak to the presence of people. Where did they go?”
In “Heroin Den,” two soda bottles sit beneath a window stripped of its frame and glass.
Albuquerque resident Noah McLaurine investigated the way New Mexico’s land mirrors layers of successive cultures. McLaurine is the photography lab manager at the University of New Mexico.
“You have cultures rise and fall,” he said. “The Native American culture was here for thousands of years, and then the Spanish legacy mirrors colonial and Spanish history. Then the Americans tested the atomic bomb here. The New Mexico we live on is this mash-up of all those different cultures and histories.”
McLaurine stumbled upon the grave of one of Geronimo’s sons while researching what had been the only road to California in southwestern New Mexico. The Apaches waited to attack wagon trains through this mountain pass, he said.
Marked by a black lava obelisk, the Trinity Site has become a bizarre tourist magnet, McLaurine said. The site of the first atomic bomb detonation is open just twice a year.
“It’s a very creepy place,” he said. “What threw me for a loop is people are treating it as a tourist place and taking selfies. It’s this horrific thing that completely reshaped the world.”