A Black and White Challenge: Day One

I’ve been invited to join a 5 Day Black and White Photography challenge. Though I haven’t joined a photo challenge in months, preferring to define my own path, the challenge is timely. A recent trip to the desert in Arizona inspired several black and white treatments of shots I took there, and I’ve been watching as the new Monochromia blog, a group black and white effort, develops.
Many good photographers have joined this 5 Day Black and White challenge, including another favorite of mine, Adrian of  Cornwall Photographic, who is currently doing beautiful work with film.
Here are the rules for the challenge:
  1. For 5 days, create a post using any past or present photo in black and white. (My days aren’t likely to be consecutive but I will do five!)
  2. Each day, invite a new photographer to join the fun. (Wow, this thing grows fast!)
sherijkennedyriverside tagged me; I thank her and appreciate her kind comments. Today I’m tagging my favorite black and white photographer (who also does great color work), 125tel / Fotogalerie. He’s from Germany, he does excellent street photography, and I am sorry to say I don’t know his actual name. I linked rather arbitrarily to a post I think is representative of his street work. (And I understand if he’s not inclined to participate -whatever works!)
Here’ the first of my five black and white photographs:
The photo was taken about a hundred miles southeast of Tucson along Rt. 186, in the hamlet of Dos Cabezas.  Weary from a stimulating day in the Chiricahua Mountains, we were on the way to the small agricultural city of Willcox for dinner when I spotted the building.  This stretch of road is called a ghost town, but people live there still.  Named Dos Cabezas (two heads) for a nearby two-peaked mountain range (glimpsed above behind the building), the area has seen its share of drama in bygone days. Gold and silver were mined in the mountains and the Butterfield Overland Mail route passed through here – when it made it past the Apaches. They took paying customers but warned them that, though paying the equivalent of thousands of dollars in today’s money, they
“will be traveling through Indian country and the safety of your person cannot be vouchsafed by anyone except God.”  A few hundred people lived here then, along with the usual assortment of hotels and saloons. The post office closed over 50 years ago and little remains of the other old buildings.
I knew nothing of this history when we stopped – I just knew I liked what I saw and I wanted to photograph it. An angry dog barked from the yard to my right, which was strewn with abandoned vehicles. Across the road a sign identified a dirt lane as “S. Gold Rush Rd.”  It was hard to predict how a flag-flying local resident might react to my wandering about the abandoned building taking pictures. We were hungry, too, so we didn’t stay very long. How old is the building? Was it once the general store? Decay is slow in the desert and clues are scarce – but I imagine someone around here knows the story.
The tough life of the gold prospector brings to mind my grandfather. One of 10 children, he emigrated from Germany at the age of 15 to join two siblings in New York. Not long after arriving in the states he made his way to Bodie, California, a gold mining town (now a National Historical Landmark) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I can’t imagine what life was like for him there – nights are so cold that no month is free of frost, and winds blow mercilessly across the exposed, treeless plateau. My grandfather didn’t stay more than a year and certainly didn’t strike it rich. He returned to New York to marry and settle down, working as a blacksmith, running a movie theater in Brooklyn until it failed, and tending bar on Chambers Street in lower Manhattan.
Yesterday I met a thirty-something man from Ohio who wondered aloud about what he missed because he didn’t move west until five years ago. The urge to go west and reinvent yourself is still strong here in America. My own move was recent, and though I can’t say I followed in my grandfather’s footsteps, when I stopped by the side of Rt. 186 I think I glimpsed his shadow.


  1. Very impressive sky. It looks as if it was shot with a filter. In any case, the photograph is beautiful. I can well understand your desire to choose your own path, and not to answer these challenges, but I will be curious to see the images you have chosen for black and white. In the days of film, the choice of color or black and white was influenced to a large part by the film which was already started at the time of the photograph. Today, when we can choose whether to shoot B&W or color with every shot, I find that I am far more likely to shoot landscape in color.


    • Oh yes, with a filter for sure – very glare-y out there! And then the processing darkened it more. A bit unreal but maybe it fits. I shoot everything in color, digitally, but when I get back and go through the photos, I try to think about whether certain images will lend themselves to black and white. Or sometimes they jump out and ask for it! Good to hear from you – and I will visit soon – I always enjoy your posts so much, Shimon.


  2. The photograph is appealing, and so is your story, Lynn. I like how the peak of the roof repeats the shape of several of the mountains, and I like how you spun your story into three episodes. The tonal range in the photo seems spot on. I probably should say more (I love this post), but I’ll leave the writing to you.


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