Mark Hahn Photography

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Category: Benson

The Possibilities are Endless – Benson, AZ

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The sun was going down on Benson when we stumbled on this little row of very old houses just beyond the railroad tracks that cut through town. It was impossible to tell if they were being torn down or being prepared for restoration. There were burned out foundations on the block and a pile of adobe bricks which looked like it had previously been a house. I shot off these photos in around ten minutes while the light held out.

Even though a few of the houses were wide open and we could easily have walked in, there was a cop circling around watching us and it was too dark inside to take photos anyway. I looked in some of the broken windows at the dark rooms inside and kind of liked being on the outside looking in, in a sense, it lent an abstract aspect of infinite possibilities for me. Of the shadowed interiors, I let my mind wander on what they could be.

As a structure, an old house can stir a feeling of new beginning or a place where you can write a fantasy destination onto the end of your life. New rooms and new situations can be found in the corners or shadows in these old houses. Perhaps, there is place where all the struggles and memories we’ve stored up in our minds can find a place to rest with us in one of these houses.

Houses all have their own personality. It comes from the basic architecture of the structure, the lives they’ve lead and the spirits who still linger — call them ghosts or whatever term you chose. My feeling for these houses were all very positive and I could imagine myself living happily in any of the smaller ones pictured. They’re only one block away from the locally owned ice cream parlor! The possibilities of finding a new life here would be endless. Those are good thoughts!

 

Inauguration Day – Deep in Trump Country

trumpcountry-11I’ll just say that the politics of the last year have left me completely disgusted, so when it came to Inauguration Day, I really just wanted to forget the whole ordeal and the ugly campaigns that led to it. My girlfriend and I decided to just ditch out of the whole thing and take ourselves off the grid and ignore the controversy and the protests. We were blessed by beautifully overcast skies which are rare here in southern AZ.

So here we were, driving down a desolate highway only a few miles from the US and Mexican border somewhere south of Benson and Wilcox, AZ and we crossed over this bridge and see a wonderful winter wooded grove rising up out of the desert along a flowing creek. That’s when we decided to get out and investigate. It was like another world, so remote and removed from outside worries.

It was hardly like the wind or the trees cared about who won the election and nor were they filled with rage and hatred. For myself, letting go of everything and experiencing this stillness and remoteness was the perfect way to spend this day! While many other people have simply let go of all hope and are becoming completely suicidal because of politics, I look to scenes like these to hold onto hope.

I didn’t connect the dots until going through these photographs just now that ironically, in our attempt to escape the inauguration and politics, that we landed right here in the heart of Trump country! AZ is a Red state, aside from a few counties with university populations. Liberals here pretty much have to accept that our votes don’t count, even though I do always vote.

Later, we stopped at a diner which only had a sign that proclaimed “Food.” Inside, it was clear that everyone eating was a heartland conservative that probably voted for Trump. I shrugged. It was friendly and we got fantastic bacon cheese burgers to eat.

The other customers were primarily ranchers and workers in related businesses. They didn’t appear to have much fight in them. They were just beaten down and many were missing teeth. They were mostly here for the all-you-could-eat catfish special.

On inauguration day, many museums closed their doors. I personally felt that it was a counterproductive gesture. While Trump supporters would be watching the inauguration, museums could have been a space of sanctuary for those needing to look beyond the election and find some hope. Really, the important things we have are our love for each other, the beauty of nature and our culture. No politicians care about us. When you die, it doesn’t matter who you voted for and when you turn your back on everything but politics, you’ve essentially let them win. I will continue moving forward and finding beauty in everything I can until I’m gone. That was the joy I found in taking these photographs!

In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty!

-Phil Ochs

Honey Moon Rising

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It’s easy for me to fall into the fears of superstitions — Friday the 13th, the full moon or any other know convergence that’s suspected of triggering bad luck. I can make up my own. I do this all the time. Sometimes things come true. Sometimes things go bad. Sometimes I think I know why.

Last Friday, it was the full moon on Friday the 13th. Something already rare. Somehow it didn’t seem to touch me. For once, I knew it was going to be OK. There wasn’t even a shadow cast across my spirit to make me think there would be anything bad coming from this alignment.

During this month of the summer solstice, the moon is at its lowest in the sky. This keeps the lunar orb close to the horizon and makes it appear more amber than normal. This distinctive amber color is why this moon is called the Honey Moon.

We drove out across the Dragoons from Benson AZ to watch the Honey Moon rise over the desert. At first it looked like it might be fires on the distant mountains, but once it broke through the clouds it was clearly the moon. Watching it climb into the sky was pure magic — one of the most beautiful nights ever. These are some photos of the Honey Moon rising over the desert.

Event Horizon – Saint David AZ

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Sometimes when you stop at the side of the road, you realize that there really is no turning back. You look into the distance and can see the past fading beyond one horizon – somewhere that you’ll never go again. Everything that simultaneously caused you pain and gave you strength is gone. These are the moments where you’re free to let go and experience the possible. Things come when you let them. The future extends from where you’re standing out into the light of the sun.

These fields lie south of Saint David AZ in the shadow of the Apache Fertilizer manufacturing facility. The sun is preparing to set. The sky had been full of dark heavy filth for days, but is clear for these shots. The fields freshly plowed. The light amazing. Everything is possible.

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Down by the Railroad Tracks – Benson, AZ

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There’s something about going down to the railroad tracks that makes you never want to come back. It is a place between nowhere and everywhere you ever wanted to go. Very few Americans living outside the congested East Coast have ever actually traveled by rail, but perhaps because the country was built on rails, we feel the mechanics of the railroad in our souls. Maybe it’s the scale of the machinery, the earthy smell of the grease or the feeling that the whole damned thing is completely unstoppable that leaves us in awe, but being in the proximity of a train gives us a place to put our heart — even when we see the train simply passing us by.

Perhaps a quarter mile east of 4th Street in Benson Arizona — off a dirt road — you come to an uncontrolled railroad crossing. 4th Street is the main drag in Benson and passes by both Reb’s Diner and the Quarter Horse RV Park and Motel. Small hills poke up from behind the railroad tracks. Old ties, broken equipment and steel drums are pushed up against the fence.

These tracks are part of the San Pedro and Southwestern Railroad (SPSR) — an Arizona shortline railroad that is currently operating a connection between the main Union Pacific Railroad in Benson to a stop in Curtiss, Arizona. This makes up barely a ten mile stretch of track which is used primarily for transporting the chemicals needed by the mining industry and local fertilizer manufacturing facilities. Until recently, the line continued south to Bisbee and then east to a station outside of Douglas, AZ (home of the famous Gadsden Hotel).

In its heyday, railroads serviced not only mining and industrial needs in this area, but provided basic transportation for many. But in 2006, the SPSR shut down all services south of Curtiss and most of the track was ripped up shortly afterward. Some of the land was converted into a natural riparian conservation areas.

The sun was just setting as we parked our vehicle by the unlocked SPSR gate and entered its land. We looked down the tracks toward the main buildings. All were very small. The weather was beautiful, and if nothing else, it seemed like a nice place to take a walk. In the distance there was another couple walking along the tracks. It was hard to guess where they had come from or where they were going.

In most towns, there really is a “wrong side of the tracks.” Sometimes you don’t know know why you are drawn there and sometimes you don’t know which side you are on. In Benson, it isn’t clear which side is which, but I’m sure the locals know. To us it didn’t matter. The sky was beautiful when the sun set around us.