The Taos Mesa
There is a small community in northern New Mexico that is like something out of the movies. Back in the 1960's a group of people made their way up to the top (elevation 7000 ft) to park their buses, trailers, or built homes out of whatever they could haul up there. Today there are still many of that original group, as well as their children and grandchildren. No education, no running water, no store for at least an hour's drive, no cell service, etc etc. Completely off grid.
When I heard about it I knew I wanted to go explore and take pictures up there.
So Miranda loaded up her car, and I loaded up mine, and up the gorge we went.
Switchback after switchback on a tiny gravel road overlooking the gorge while the thunder and lightning came down heavy as ever. About an hour later we arrived. It met every expectation I had. There are roads upon muddy roads of campers, trailers, buses, adobes, and every kind of shack you can imagine. We slipped and slid as far back as we could go while Miranda's car waited at the entrance.
With all the rain and lightning no one was outside but I knew I really wanted a portrait and a story to go with such a unique place. So knocking on some doors was the only option.
After a few that went unanswered I pulled up to a place covered with metal art and furniture strewn about the front. When I knocked on the side of the camper a man yelled" Who is it?" and opened the door, completely naked. "Who are you?" He asked. "Amelia.. photographer… North Carolina…"
Just long enough to second guess myself. But then the door popped back open and into the dark camper I went.
John Lebleu explained that this is completely unplanned, he likes to know what's happening and when, he isn't ready for pictures, etc. "I completely understand, thank you for letting me in." I said. Then he asked if I had seen his comb, which I hadn't, and he replied "Well I'm going to find my comb and you go get your camera."
It turns out that John is an "actor, an artist, and a Mountain Man, and is used to photographers." Originally from Louisiana, he's been living up there on the mesa for 37 years.
After a few minutes of shooting he pulled out a giant knife and suggested we use that as a prop. Which was fine, except for the fact that I was now convinced I was going to die in New Mexico in the desert haha.
But then Kaira and Chris came to check on me and we said our goodbyes. This might have been one of the crazier things I've done for the sake of a photo, and while John is completely harmless, I'm glad I had a couple friends looking out for me.
I miss these folks already.