Red Blue WhiteThe colors Red, White and Blue represent a culture, a belief system, one nation under god. How to capture this with images in my community proved challenging. I don't live in a typical town, with typical values. I live in Truckee, California: a rustic community quaintly nestled between the lost dreams of Reno, Nevada and the progressive cultural center of San Francisco. I wanted to portray the cliché of American life with this project however I live in a place far from typical. I shot this project on my 30th birthday, the landmark crossing of three decades provided me the inspiration to capture life around me.
The day started stealing images of a hippie/bluegrass band's bio-diesel tour bus parked in my driveway. Their community approach to touring involved meeting people in new communities, sharing their music and hopefully finding someone willing to share their home for the night. The bus was the epitome of grass roots energy, recycling a tired old school bus and giving it a new life bringing music to eager groovers at bars and festivals across the west. The bus bared a new look with hand painted images and designs. What made the bus most unique was that it was converted to be fueld by recycled cooking oil.
Taken out of context, the first image stands strong. The lock represents the barrier's disabled people face in this country. I have learned how easy it is to be blind to the challenges other people face. I have watched my father struggle with mobility all his life, bound to a walker and wheelchair for the past five years. I didn't really understand until I found myself in a wheelchair after snapping my Achilles tendon three months ago. While we live in a country with strict accessibility laws, we still alienate and restrict the freedoms of people who are different. There is a deep fear in all of us that we might lose sight or our legs. We look away to pretend it isn't real instead of offering them a hand crossing the street.
I was looking for red, white, and blue images when the next image made me pull off the road and start shooting. We drive past these images every day and don't think about their meanings. The faded banner placed strategically to attract tourists to fill their basic needs at the small gas station. This gas station was the first place I stopped when I first arrived in town just over 3 years ago. I didn't need gas, beer, ice or food, I needed to use the bathroom. The bathroom had a lock on it that could be opened not with a key from the cashier. It required quarters for access. I had heard of pay bathrooms in Europe but had never seen one. The red, white, and blue banner and pay-bathroom scream capitalism, "Spend your money here." The color of money is not green, it is Red, White and Blue.
The sun-bleached duct taped grill shows age and decay. The attempt to resurrect and restore life to the old bus couldn't defy time. The paint had faded and chipped, and the broken grille's duct tape Band-Aid had succumbed to the passing of time and travel. While the sun is what provides us with life and energy, it also makes things evolve and age.
Streetscape at Donner Pass Road is a day-to-day snap shot of life in Truckee. Snow covered Donner Pass stands above Truckee, blocking passage to the promise of fortune beyond. It isn't quite how the Donner Party saw the snowy Truckee river valley. Winter passage over the pass is now accessible to all who can afford a four-wheel drive vehicle and gas to power it. While people come to the "developed" Sierra-Nevada Mountains to escape the urbanization and clutter of their homes and workplaces, they bring their expensive, luxury lifestyles with them, making their rustic experience a little more comfortable.
The sunset represents my overcoming of my personal challenges and obstacles. For the previous three months I had struggled with limited mobility after a seemingly random accident that instantly stole my ability to walk. After missing work, and expensive surgery I found myself in a challenging personal situation. I had new limits I could have never prepared for. After spending two months on crutches and four-weeks learning to walk again, I put on a pair of snow shoes and went hiking. That afternoon the Lake Tahoe basin was under an uncommon meteorological condition where the warm air was trapped below a layer of cold air forming a thick layer of fog. It was a poetic reward to my reemergence into the backcountry.
The final image shows the diligence in the struggle to survive in my community. A fresh paint job doctors up the appearance of a small residence at one of the old gateways to town. The tired building contradicts the image of utopia how many view my community. The rooftop deck with its battered patio furniture features a million-dollar view of the Truckee river, Mt Rose and it's surrounding wilderness area and Donner Summit. The deck also overlooks a rail-yard, the back of a gas station, and hordes of people in search of recreation. (photographer's note: the house is actually crème and brown colored, however I digitally painted it to fit the theme.)