Mark Hahn Photography

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Category: Olympus 17mm

Solar Culture Gallery – Waves Crash In

Opening Saturday 8 October 2016

6-9 PM


I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery. They were used as the album art for the cover of my new music CD, Waves Crash In. All three were taken at the Salton Sea. That is a George Jones LP sitting on the table where it had been left by last owners of the abandoned trailer (Bombay Beach).

Come see the show if you are in town!

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

This is the front cover of Waves Crash In:


The official announcement for the album is here (showing all album art and CD design).

Waves Crash In is available for purchase right now from here.

Digital distribution is being handled by where the album is available here (along with my previous three albums).

For more information, contact Mark Hahn at

All images and content copyrighted 2016 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

Man with a Suitcase – Album Available Now!

Man with a Suitcase is available now in physical CD form and can be found on (eligible for Prime and SuperSaver shipping) or directly through my eStore. Digital sales are being handled by bandcamp — the entire album is also available for full preview streaming on bandcamp.

As always, thank you all for the support you give me, it really means a lot!

Also, for my online friends, I am offering a half price promo for the digital album download (discount code: “friends”).

Note: All photography and layout work done by me!

Solar Culture Gallery – Man With a Suitcase

Opening Saturday 11 June 2016

6-9 PM

I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery. They were used as the album art for the cover of my upcoming music CD, Man With a Suitcase. The first two are from Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea and the third from an abandoned motel in Wilcox, AZ.

Come see the show if you are in town!

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

For more information, contact Mark Hahn at

All images and content copyrighted 2016 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

Photography and Spatial Memory


We lose the memories of many specific moments that shape us into the people we become. There are too many details to hold onto so we’re left with the incompleteness of abstract emotions that have been imprinted in our mind through experience. As a photographer, rediscovering the spaces of these imprints can be meaningful exploration – shedding light into who we are and how we’ve gotten to wherever we ended up.

Exploring abandoned domestic spaces lets us construct temporary structures that allow us to experience some of our orphaned emotional memories that have nothing else to attach themselves to. To a certain degree, we all share the same common basic human needs and live in similar domestic environments designed to meet those needs. Viewing these spaces as they fall into varying degrees of ruin can trigger memory based deja vu. It doesn’t matter that the space is not technically our own, in fact the response can be even more powerful because it isn’t our own. Sometimes the possible is much more exciting or troubling than what has actually happened. The connections we uncover often broaden our emotional responses.


If we can imagine that we have been somewhere in our past, even though it is not from our literal past, the feelings stirred up can be veryy real. Feelings are what count most in life, not the explicit objects we associate them with. If we can allow ourselves to feel our past memories while standing in a found-space we can sometimes sew together the discontinuities that have been left within ourselves. Without a mirror to reflect and fortify the self-image that we have created in life, we can sometimes feel ourselves as just who we are – including all the pain, the satisfaction and the insecurities. It is the spark of existence that makes us who we are, not the objects we surround ourselves with or the accomplishments we stack up and brag about over our lifetime.

Art photography can give us a doorway into discovering our abstract internal spaces. It’s another way of connecting with what is already there within us. Unlike the other arts though, photography is limited by reality. Reality is our artist’s medium – we create our work from what is real and discoverable. One of my photography professors started out his class saying, “If nothing else, after taking this course, you will come out possessing another way of seeing.” This is the true gift of photography. When you are really successful, others can see something new and personal through your work as well.


Trespassing into the wreckage of other people’s past lives often puts you in touch with the residue of all our collective pasts. None of us is really as special as we feel. The act of trespassing into someone’s abandoned home is of course legally questionable, but probably more problematic in an ethical sense since in essence, we are acting as thieves — appropriating what at one time was inside someone else’s personal boundaries and using it for our own creative purposes. Legal issues aside, I believe as long as the original occupants are not identified or exploited, that appropriating scenes from their abandoned spaces to use as a vehicle of expression of my own emotional memories is not terribly problematic.


Many things cannot be created from scratch, they need to be discovered. When you trespass into the unknown, you are already on hyper-alert. You don’t know what or who you will encounter when you turn a blind corner. You can make you feel both fear and excitement. Fear of the unknown in the form of danger and excitement in the endless possibility of discovery.

Excitement and happiness are easily understand, but fear is an ancient emotion residing in the amygdala – hidden somewhere in the deepest and most primitive part of our brain. Fear ties our earliest memories and emotions to the present moment. At the edge of a fight-or-flight reaction we take in our surroundings differently than under normal circumstances. We move quickly through a space, sizing up our surroundings. Certain things trigger an emotional response. Pow! Snap! You catch it in your viewfinder.


Literal objects trigger expected memories. For me, when I see an old pack of Chesterfields lying on the ground in some abandoned place I remember that my grandfather smoked them. It is a predictable response. Sometimes though, when I run across the right combination of elements – perhaps a special light playing of wood paneling in an abandoned kitchen, I can momentarily imagine what it felt like to be with him. I can hear his voice and smell the bacon cooking from when he made me breakfast in the morning. I can’t predict these memory triggers since they are so abstract in nature, but the memories and emotions that come from them can be so immediate and direct that the triggers must be set somewhere in the depths of my mind.

Memories lie deeper than the scraps of paper that we collect – more than the two dimensional photos and birthday cards that we save and accidentally leave in the houses we vacate. Memories are inscribed into our minds in multidimensional space with complex connections that even we cannot decipher. Lists and dates are just simple data points. The wholeness of memory is experienced through indescribable emotions, triggered by the unexpected. Depending on our ability to let go and open our eyes, we can find meaning in many different places.


Solar Culture Gallery – Spatial Memories and Photographic Thieves


Opening Saturday 31 May 2014

6-9 PM

I will be showing three photos in this Solar Culture show that are used in my upcoming article on art, photography and discovered memories — look for this in the next issue of Bad Subjects.

My Photos On Display:

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ

Event Horizon – Saint David AZ

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.


Down by the Railroad Tracks – Benson, AZ


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.

Solar Culture Gallery – Letting Light Into the Dirty Corners

Letting_light_in1Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ

Opening Saturday 22 February 2014

6-9 PM

These are some early photographs I shot when I first started shooting with my girlfriend Kim. Up until then I did everything artistic completely alone. We met at a Solar Culture Gallery opening when we both hung work. We talked about my photographs. Where I found what I shot. Within a week we met up to shoot photos together in the alleys downtown. Shortly after that, we started heading out into the Arizona Copperbelt. It changed everything. These photos are from Safford and Winkelman AZ, not that it strictly matters where they were taken. We could have been anywhere and we could have found the same thing.

My Photos On Display:

When you take your photography seriously, as do I, shooting photos together with someone else takes a lot of trust and respect. You have to recognize when to give the other person space to do their own thing and them you. At its core, the creative process is both personal and private. You can’t share this comfortably with many people.

Probably what was hardest for me to give up was the exclusivity of discovery when shooting with Kim. When you are out by yourself and stumble on some fragile bit of amazing reality, you feel like an explorer. Your discoveries are your own. When you go out with someone else, you give this up. You can’t take ownership of any one thing you find since it is right there, free for anyone to shoot. This is especially apparent when you find yourselves shooting the exact same thing basically side by side. You have to completely let go of feelings of possession and ownership of what you see.

Unlike other arts, you have to accept the fact that when you are out shooting together — and have very similar equipment — that theoretically you could even take the exact same photograph. This doesn’t happen, but it could. For me, this ended up freeing me because by giving up exclusivity and ownership of my subject, it forces me to more thoroughly concentrate on my emotional intent and the aspects of my art that are independent of subject.

Once, during a particularly brutal critique in art school I ended shooting down some asshole who didn’t get what I was trying to do with my work.

“I don’t care what I’m shooting or whether or not you like my subjects! I use reality as my medium — whatever reality I come across — and I make something new with it. The subject is just whatever happens to be handy at the time. The emotional meanings are in the underlying abstract connections that hold my photographs together.”

There was probably a lot of youthful bravado in this proclamation, but I meant it and it was still true.

It doesn’t matter to me that most people will my see my photos on a deadpan literal plane. I like the tension between literal and abstract, the inanimate mixed with the most deeply emotional content and the magic found among the trash. Shooting with Kim has probably resulted in me developing this sense more keenly than I ever would have had I continued to shoot my photos alone.

Interestingly, shooting together doesn’t get in my way of exploring the emotions of existential aloneness, it just makes it more fun — and fun is one emotion that I’ve never explored much in my art. Fun is something better to experience in real life. Art provides an avenue to work through the difficulties that have piled up inside you over your lifetime. Difficulties are easier to overcome when you are out enjoying and exploring life with someone else.

K_n_M_douglasPhoto: Kim Nicolini

Road to Ruin


There was One Stop between Winkleman and Hayden. It’s been gone for years and is slowly falling into ruin. It is still filled with the remains of what it once was and what it had been to those who stopped here. In some ways, it could have been anywhere. The people who shopped here were like people everywhere. We all have the same basic needs.

It’s forty degrees outside. The woman walks in with no shoes. She is missing teeth.

“You back already,” asks the girl behind the counter.

“It’s still Friday,” laughs the woman.

“Remember, you made me promise not to sell you anything till next Friday.”

“It’s not midnight yet! I meant starting tomorrow.”

Without speaking, the clerk grabs a pint of cheap bourbon, two travel sized bottles of Courvoisier and a pack of generic smokes. She puts them on the counter in front of the woman. The clerk knows exactly what she wants.

“Listen honey, I’m not going to be your babysitter. You came in and made me promise not to sell you any more booze until next Friday. Now you’re here buying more. You have to make up your mind.”

The woman seemed defeated.

“That starts at midnight.”

The woman is drunk and continues on with the argument that the whole world will be new tomorrow —  the lies we tell ourselves to get on with our lives the way they are. In reality, it was already 10:45 so she would probably still be up drinking her bourbon when the new day started.

* * *

The rise of the modern convenience store in America corresponds roughly with the post-depression post-WWII mobilization of the country. This, by extension, was the birth of the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac completed his famous novel On The Road in 1951 and in 1952 the 7-Eleven chain opened its 100th store. Fast food chains were just starting to spread across the country at this time as well — McDonald’s started selling franchises in 1953. Ten years later, Bob Dylan would proclaim, “the times they are a changing.” Only, for Kerouac, he didn’t see it coming. Instead, he looked back at the old American landscape and tried to find something new in it. Perhaps all of us want to look back and find something we’ve missed in our youth. Kerouac lived on apple pie and ice cream as he crossed America.

Ginsberg once told Neal Cassady that he could do anything he wanted to, including living an open and honest existence and being the greatest poet since Rimbaud. Cassady spent his time working menial jobs, fucking women and going to the midget car races — watching little cars go around in circles never getting anywhere new. Cassady was always on a schedule. Drank, fucked, worked and watched the races all by the clock. The schedule was important to keep, maybe more important than what he did. We have to keep moving. We punctuate our time with the little things we do and the products we consume. One Stop offered all the basics.

As a young man living in Detroit — between colleges and jobs — I spent a period of my life working on a novel. Night became day and day night as I fed myself amphetamines and booze. I hammered out fucked up stream of consciousness prose on my dad’s old Smith Corona typewriter. When I could, I tried to sleep during the day.

On cool nights I’d throw on my dad’s old gray cable knit sweater and ride the Honda to one of the all night 7-Elevens to get cigarettes. When no one was around, I’d stay and talk with the cute girl working the graveyard shift. We talked about authors, writing and classic literature. She was taking courses at the local community college.

I should have asked her out — that’s what she wanted. I never figured out how to do it without it coming out like I was looking for a dumb date. What I really wanted to do was just ride around on the Honda with her on the back — her arms around me as we sped through the dark streets of Detroit. Then we could go back to her place and talk about music and literature. I should have just asked her if she wanted to take a ride. It never happened.


During my move from LA to Tucson, I came across the yellowing unfinished manuscript. It was better than I thought it would be. The characters seemed real. The story was developing into something new and I cared what was going to happen to the characters. After so many years, the novel was as new to me as to anyone else who would have stumbled across it. Then it just ends — like a lot of things.

All the notes for the novel are gone and I can’t remember where the story was supposed to go. I don’t remember where the characters were going to end up — I probably never knew. I also don’t remember much about the girl at the 7-Eleven other than that she made me happy when I talked with her.


Hotel Reardon – Clifton AZ


The Hotel Reardon lies at the south end of Clifton, on what was originally US Route 666 — the devil’s highway. The rugged landscape around Clifton make this one hell of a road, especially if you continue north past the Morenci mine. The Reardon Hotel looks sad and menacing as it looms large behind overgrown trees in its drab grayness with its broken and boarded up windows. No Trespassing and No Loitering signs are unceremoniously affixed across the front of the hotel. The original sign is now hidden behind the trees. I was put off by all the No Trespassing signs and the cop who slowed down to give me “the eye” as he drove by — obviously noting that I was no local and probably wondering what I was doing on foot in this battered old Arizona mining town.

In the back of the Hotel I found that someone had kicked in the second floor door and stacked up an assortment of cinder blocks as a makeshift ladder. We had to climb the ladder to reach the threshold of the remnants of an oak doorway from which to pull ourselves up from. Once I saw the back hall open up before me and all the promising doorways — leading to who knows where — there was no turning back. The cop hadn’t circled around to see what we were doing yet and the Hotel seemed reasonably intact. It was all ours. The sun was setting fast and we had to rush to take photographs before we lost all our light.

Hotels are nothing but spaces where people stay. It felt like the good, the bad and the ugly had all stayed in the Reardon. You could feel their presence in the walls. Their spirits were on the doors and rising up through the holes in the floors.

Clifton was a tough town with a tough history and tough working conditions. When times are hard, people get harder. Many bad things must have happened in the Reardon — rape, murder, sorrow, insanity and love all probably found their way into these rooms. Walking into each room I felt all these harrowing and exhilarating pasts. I could be a thousand people looking out each window — out across the crumbling town to the crumbling rocks thrown up from the mine that surrounds it.

It felt like you could find everything good that you ever left behind within these walls, within these rooms. It also felt that everything bad that you had left behind was closed in one room down the hall, only you didn’t know which one it was. Opening each door meant opening another memory. I’ve lived in transient hotels that had this same feeling — the Reardon bought all these mixed memories back to me.

Things that happen in hotels happen everywhere, they are just more open because of the shared walls and doors that lead into the common hallway where everyone has to pass each other in the morning. For some reason, I remembered in eighth grade when my family moved to Grosse Pointe. The kid living in the mansion across the street secretly showed me his parent’s BDSM sex toys. I didn’t know what to make of them, especially given the apparent normalness of his parents. Two days later the father blew his brains out. The gunshot woke me up.