Blake Gordon Photography

NEWS: Blake Gordon Photography

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In Print: The Malpai for The Nature Conservancy

Malpai is a Spanish word that means "Badlands" and has been adopted by a region that covers southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. The Malpai Borderlands Group is a consortium of ranchers, conservationists, and state and federal agencies that have come together to best manage the environment and ranching industry of the region.

Warner Glenn on the cover The Nature Conservancy Magazine for a story on the Malpai Borderlands Group
Warner Glenn on the cover The Nature Conservancy Magazine for a story on the Malpai Borderlands Group

The Nature Conservancy previously purchased and donated a parcel of land in the region that became the San Bernadino Wildlife Refuge. In the early 1990s, a spectacular piece of land, The Gray Ranch, became available for purchase and The Nature Conservancy rallied the funds to purchase it. It is a phenomenal nearly 350,000 acre ranch that encompasses the entire Animas Mountain Range. Unsure of what to do with it, The Nature Conservancy ended up selling it to a local rancher with ties to the Anheuser-Busch family. Now called the Diamond A Ranch, the transaction was a surprise to many and became the first step of the Nature Conservancy and ranchers working together for conservation. The Nature Conservancy has stayed active in the region and assists the Malpai Borderlands Group in management.

I spent several weeks in the Malpai, staying with legendary rancher Warner Glenn at his ranch just a few miles from the border. It is a remarkable landscape, storied with the legends of Geronimo, Pancho Villa, and others. Drug trafficking and human smuggling is active in the region now and the US Border Patrol maintains a large presence in the region. Our story focused on the unique politics and management of the Malpai and celebrated The Nature Conservancy's history here. Once again, TNC's photo editor and design team did a phenomenal job of working with the piece from start to finish to create a compelling layout. The story can be read online here.

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
GEAR: bike touring photography for B&H Photo/Video
John Logsdon pedaling through the open vistas of the Patagonia Steppe, one of the world's largest deserts.

John Logsdon pedaling through the open vistas of the Patagonia Steppe, one of the world's largest deserts.

Years ago, I joined Mike and John Logsdon and Nateon Ajello on Spinning Southward - an epic trans-continental bicycle tour. The Logsdon brothers were dedicating a journey from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina to the memory of their mother, who passed away from brain cancer when they were young.

They raised $75,000 dollars for the National Brain Tumor Society. Sharing a similar loss of his mother, Nateon Ajello, joined and developed a full length documentary.

This was in the days before social media and internet access was just starting to reach into some place. We would take a break at an internet cafe every so often spending an hour to check and reply to a few emails. Nateon was bold enough to attempt to shoot video and edit on the road - an incredibly daunting task when your office is a bicycle on less than forgiving roads. Check out his road of technological trials in his “Los Tecnicos” episode.

It was also in my early days in the professional world and it is somewhat ironic (but enjoyable) to give a gear write-up as a poor emerging photographer on a shoestring budget. Take a look at the gear write-up for B&H Photo/Video.

View the piece, along with images from the trip HERE

In Print: Marmot
Marmot athlete Eric Bryant ripping some turns in the backcountry near Telluride

Marmot athlete Eric Bryant ripping some turns in the backcountry near Telluride

In the spring of this year, I teamed up with Dave Clifford in Telluride to shoot a collection of winter 2014/2015 images for Marmot. It was a wild ride with us all packed in a stellar but small modern house in Telluride. Despite a big wind event just preceding our arrival, we were able to get out for a few days of heli-skiing with Telluride Hellitrax. The terrain in the San Juans is always stunning and our group did a great job with the conditions.

The images are being used across the board: in-store, online, social media, national print ads, and more. The above image is a grab from Instagram but is also being used in national ads for their brand and to encourage their users to let them know "What Gives You Life?"


UncategorizedBlake Gordon
In Print: Texas Monthly
A sunrise view of McKittrick Canyon from high upon McKittrick Ridge // Hasselblad 500CM / 80mm lens / Portra 160

A sunrise view of McKittrick Canyon from high upon McKittrick Ridge // Hasselblad 500CM / 80mm lens / Portra 160

I was sent down to the Guadalupe Mountains in the far corner of Texas to shoot a piece on "Wild Texas" for Texas Monthly recently. Interestingly enough, Texas born LBJ signed the Wilderness Act of 1964 into law on September 3, 1964 - just over 50 years ago.

The assignment was a two day overnight hike into a seldom visited part of the state. I saw no one else during the entire two day hike and buzzards watched me from above as I approached camp in the afternoon. The monsoon rains of late summer turned the desert to an amazing green. Fresh off of a trip as a sherpa for a friend deep into the Great Sand Dunes National Park, I wasn't overly concerned about the strenuous nature of the hike. But the 14 mile roundtrip hike up onto the ridge with camera gear and all the water I would need for two days (there is no source of water along the hike) was not something to underestimate.

I took my medium format Hasselblad system into the field and shot several rolls - primarily around dusk and dawn. The image chosen was a sunrise shot looking into McKittrick Canyon from the ridge line.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the fantastic Jody Horton's work on the cover of the issue.

Here I share the opening spread with Jody. This view is looking out across the limestone canyon where McKittrick Canyon takes a sharp turn into South McKittrick Canyon

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
In Print: Back to the Adirondacks
TNC - cover image
TNC - cover image

 

A recent feature for the The Nature Conservancy is out now on an historic land transfer to Adirondack State Park. The Nature Conservancy acquired some stunning ex-timber lands in the Adirondacks and recently transferred them to the State of New York.

Read the article HERE

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Ready for the road
last night at the Hatchery

last night at the Hatchery

It's been a long hot summer, although the more when you don't use A/C and are working on a metal box in the middle of the day. But the good news is the trailer is ready for the road and we'll be heading out West after PDN's Outdoor Photo Expo and the Outdoor Retailer trade show at the beginning of August. A record hot summer in Texas should make the mountains all the more enjoyable. I hope they get rain while I'm away - though the extended forecast looks grim.

Goodbye 2010: a quick review

Ah, 2010. Goodbye. We spent a lot of time together working on somethings. I'm looking forward to 2011 and investing some more time and energy into a few personal projects that I'm excited about. I'm blessed to be surrounded by a wealth of friends who set a high bar with their personal work. I think with the abundance of images in the world it's critical to have a sense of authorship as a photographer, or anyone adding to the cultural noise that is media. It reminds me of a quote I saw recently: "Beneath every good word is an even greater silence." If you're going to supplant the silence, it should be done with some craft/style/grace. A few of the highlights:

-completing a 5 day continuous nightwalk through Austin -collaborating with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, MS on an exhibition -SXSW -covering the Deepwater Horizon oil spill -producing a multi-media piece for the National Parks Conservation Association -assisting Brent Humphreys with his development of the Ziddel House -hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim for Boys' Life magazine -acquiring a 1948 Boles-Aero travel trailer which will be the foundation for a deployable hermitage/studio

Onward to 2011.

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
1948 Boles-Aero

The last three weeks have been quiet for assignment work, but that's been welcomed as I've been busy working on the 14' travel trailer I purchased a few months ago. Though it is a very solid unit, it is a 60 year-old trailer and there is always plenty of work to do on a project like this.

My intent is to design a modular mobile production retreat. By that, I mean that the trailer is meant to be deployed to an isolated space for the purpose of producing work focused on a specific project. The personal projects I explore often focus on an environment and require a contemplative process to do so. Allowing that methodology I use in the field to play out in the production phase (which often demands a necessary amount of studio work) is important to retaining the authenticity of the work.

The trailer allows me to retool my relationship with my environment from one of balancing a number of relationships, responsibilities, and the daily grind to one of a singular focus on the work. This is important in order to explore the possibilities of the work more intensely. This facet of the process is embedded within field work, but so often gets lost upon return. The primacy of the field and lessons learned while in contact are central to much of my work.

There are a lot of loose ends on the trailer as it has been in use as a gutted utility trailer for some time. Nearly every single component of the trailer needs at least some kind of attention and over the past month I have: -cleaned and painted the frame with industrial rust-proofing paint -replaced the wiring -cleaned, sealed, and reinstalled sub floor -replaced electrical inlet -repaired clearance lights -new license plate frame and light -new glass for door and windows(2) -new exterior door handle -polished interior skin of door -installed reflective insulation -cut, painted, installed interior walls of Homasote -new aluminum trim at interior wall/door interface -new stainless steel bolts to replace missing rivets at skin/frame connection

I've been working in the space as I've been designing/building it out to get a sense of what will work. The largest constraints are space/weight. There is a wide array of suppliers I've gone to with parts needs as nothing original is available. The layering of time is the most visible marker binding the trailer to its surroundings and I have no intent of making this appear "as new". Thus, it is a slow process finding parts and materials that respect that layering but add to is functionality. All in all it's been quite fun with much work still to do. I would like to take it out for a field test in the following weeks.

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
6,000 miles in the Southwest

I recently arrived back in Austin after being on the road for 6 weeks initiated by a weeklong assignment in the Grand Canyon for Boys' Life magazine.

I used the assignment as an opportunity to get back out West, spend some time in the mountains and view an old travel trailer in California I've been eyeing as the foundation of a project. I purchased the trailer after my assignment, attended the summer Outdoor Retailer convention in Salt Lake City, spent some time in Los Angeles, Flagstaff, and Carbondale, CO before heading back to Los Angeles to pickup Brent Humphrey's prints of his Le Tour project from the Clark-Oshin gallery in West Hollywood.

Hauling the 1,400 mile drive between Los Angeles of the West Coast and Austin of the Texas Hill Country was my first professional transport gig bringing me one step closer to being the "long-haul trucker" I've been called by a friend.

Much of the route I traveled back Austin I'd either never driven or have driven through only at night. The expanse of earth between Willcox, AZ and Las Cruces, NM is simply stunning. I would say it was easily the best part of the drive, but the Big Bend region is quite lovely this time of year.

And so despite the fact that the distance (nearly 6,000mi) covered over the past 6 weeks was a bit more than anticipated (with the final 3,000 towing a 60 year old trailer) it's a very promising step for the development of my work.

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
NPR: soliders with Traumatic Brain Injury

Several weeks ago, NPR sent me out to El Paso to photograph several soldiers receiving treatment for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that occured while they were in service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The story was a joint investigation with ProPublica on the challenge soldiers are having getting treatment for TBI. My photos were implemented in both an online story and a multimedia piece. I enjoyed supplying a part of a multifaceted story.

You can view the piece here on NPR.

joining Aurora Select

new Aurora Select membersIt's a great honor to be added to the Aurora Select assignment roster along with a number of other fine photographers. I'm in a bit of awe of sharing the lineup with James Balog, whom I worked for on his Extreme Ice Survey project. His work continues to amaze me.


I've been working with Aurora Photos for about a year and a half and have enjoyed my time with them. They've connected me to some great clients and the assignments that come down from them have been a really good fit for my interests. Assignment work is a real joy as it always entails going out into the world and searching for a truth to share. I appreciate you keeping me in mind, Chris and David.


I'll be going up to New York City and Washington D.C. in a few weeks for a round of meetings and look forward to strengthening our relationship as well as connecting to some new clients.





The London Times: The Drums

I followed Brooklyn based band The Drums around during for The London Times. The story is running as a weekend feature this weekend. I really enjoyed pursuing a narrative during SXSW. The band was quite humble and great to work with allowing an intimate look at their SXSW Friday in Austin, TX. I did get to use the "I'm with the band line" numerous times, following them in-studio, backstage, onstage, etc. I was really impressed with their music and performances, too. Best of luck, guys.

extended nightwalk

I'm heading out on an extended self-supported nightwalk this week. It will be my first extended venture through an urban environment in this manner. I'm packing food for 4-5 days, camera equipment and sleeping bag/pad. I will NOT be taking a phone, wallet, or money. I'm intent on keeping my pack size down so that I will be able to move lightly across terrain. I've fully appropriated a method of walking in the wilderness for experiencing and creating the images in the nightwalks series.

The entire purpose of the project is to develop an intimate relationship with the direct physical environment, whatever that may be. What we don't take into our environment is as critical as what we do take into our environment.

Low temperatures are predicated to be in the 30s throughout the week with highs in the mid 50s during the day. Tuesday is very likely going to be precipitation in the form of snow, so it will be interesting to see how I respond to that. I plan on walking at night and finding a place to sleep/rest during the day. As the intent is a dialogue between myself and my physical environment, I aim to keep social interactions non-existent. Relating intimately to physical space requires making the appropriate space behaviorally.

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
Myth and Landscape in the West

I've been doing some investigative research and travel in the southwest. Two things that stick out: the wide range of what we call 'outdoor recreation' and the frontier spirit of the individual. The American desert has given room for both of those pursuits to breathe. I spent some time in Quartzite, AZ - the largest migratory stopover point for RV dwelling snowbirds in North America. There numbers are down here due and they have scattered throughout the region, but Quartzite still dominates as a winter mecca.

closing up shop in the markets of Quartzite, AZ


Leonard Knight has been devoting his efforts over the last 24 years to the creation of Salvation Mountain - a Land Art based billboard proclaiming the universal of message of "God is Love". I'm reminded of a passage in Paul Shepard's book, Man in the Landscape:

"The desert is the environment of revelation... To the desert go prophets and hermits; through deserts go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality."


scooping up clay to make some more adobe

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
explorations in West Texas

No map, no plan. I went out West with a friend to do some research/exploration of the Western landscape. It was an exercise in being open to possibility and finding opportunity. It was also the first field test of both some project ideas and my truck with its modified camper setup. A working vacation with no demands and just possibilities was just the right order. We explored the people and place that wove together self made buildings out of paper, frontier mansions, the best beans in Marfa, Pinto Canyon, villages in Mexico, the wild Terlingua, and a sky of stars above the Chisos in Big Bend. The trip was just a piece of something greater in progress.

between Marfa and Ft Davis

UncategorizedBlake Gordon
Capitol Peak

Capitol PeakCapitol Peak is one of the most difficult of Colorado's fourteeners to climb (as far as standard routes). The only non-technical route, the Northeast Ridge, requires crossing the famously exposed "Knife Edge," the northeast ridge of Capitol.

There is something utterly compelling about mountains. I've been thinking about them quite a bit while in Austin. The visual appeal is one thing, but I keep thinking about how their elevation creates space in the landscape. Life in three dimensions is so much more compelling.