Mural of the Weeping Martyr

“The martyrs shook the powers of darkness with the irresistible power of weakness.”

– John Milton

She weeps for the injustices of the world. She cries for all mankind. Her apparition is appearing in the sacred tradition of miracles known to her native land. Her tears run a steady stream day and night falling in to the flowing acequia of the desert dust carrying the stillness of the past with the pain of now.

Living here in New Mexico there are many murals painted on the ancient adobes. They are of saints, martyrs, religious, historical and contemporary figures. These murals can be powerful imagery arousing one’s emotions.

“Have I not seen secret malignance strike down the helpless under the cover of hypocritical might? Have I not heard the silenced voice of justice weeping in solitude at might’s defiant outrages?”

– Tagore

As I made this image the horrifying war in Ukraine was heavy upon my being and my heart has ached to watch the madness of unleashed evil in our world. Each day brings more dreadful news of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow brothers and sisters and with this comes the reminder of the fragileness of life and the gift of freedom.

Looking back through the thousands of years of history, darkness has always been there taking the lives of great prophets, thinkers, seers, visionaries and the innocents of all ages. The Weeping Martyr sheds her tears for all the suffering in this world.

E.McD April 25th, 2022

Ranchos de Taos Church

The day was ending as I slowly drove home to Santa Fe. The stormy sky had brought a deluge intermingled with frozen rain and hail. A break in the downpour came as I was passing the village of Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico.

In the plaza there sits the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church which dates back to 1772. This church is one of the most painted, drawn, and photographed buildings in New Mexico. It is an elegant structure in both form and shape, crafted from the earth it sits on. Over the decades, I have probably passed by the Ranchos Church several hundred times. On some occasions I have stopped to admire and walk around, and at times have attempted to take photos. It is always worth the view as I pass by.

On this late afternoon as I turned into the plaza, the light became delicate and even, the sky above glowed softly with spirit, and the soil was rich in color from the rain revealing the soul force of the earth. At this moment it was my good fortune to have the plaza all to myself with not a single soul or creature around. It was time to make another attempt to capture the magic and splendor of this special place. The rain had slowed to a drizzle. With camera in hand I got out of my car. About 8 exposures into the process the thunder began to rumble, and the rains came. Returning to the car, I dried off my camera and myself, and sat in silence watching the light show in the sky above the church and listening to the rain. It was a sublime moment. Sitting there I began to contemplate the age and the antiquity of this spot. I remembered something my friend Rodolfo had once told me as we walked through the city of Rome. He explained how ancient civilizations are stacked up one upon another in his age-old city. It was all dust on top of dust. Contemporary buildings built on foundations of vanished structures from thousands of years ago. I began to wonder what was under the Ranchos Church and the history of this site. What cultures were here going back through time?

Back in the studio as I began to work, I pondered Rodolfo’s words and the perspective they brought to the experience of that stormy afternoon. I saw the space that filled the landscape flowing into the canopy of a dream like sky, and then beyond into the universe, and eternity. The design that is integrated into the soil of the church foreground is Anasazi, photographed from a water jar that dates back about one thousand years. I began to picture cultures, peoples, and time marching on, transforming what was once one thing into something now very different. And all of it merging, combining, vibrating into the present moment, and taking form with majestic beauty as the Ranchos de Taos Church.

Fleetwood, New Mexico - 1976

Fleetwood, New Mexico 1976

It was a beautiful early New Mexico morning in July 1976. I was living in Albuquerque and had become a bit more confident as a photographer from attending consecutive years of summer workshops in Yosemite with Ansel Adams.

I now had my own darkroom and had been supplied with the developing formulas from the workshops but was still deep into learning the art of photography. I set out at the crack of dawn to capture the image that had been pre-visualized and sketched out on my little pad. The camera of choice was my Hasselblad with a 50mm lens and in the car was my sturdy tripod, which I had ordered to be exactly as the one Ansel had last summer. My Dad once told me: “If you want to do something well then pick out a person with great talent and try to learn all they know and how they do it”. This was one of the best pieces of advice he ever gave me. I was behind the wheel of Leo Bartolucci’s incredible 1960 Fleetwood Cadillac hardtop coupe.

Leo was an older neighbor and a wonderful character. One day I saw him come home in the shiniest metallic lavender and most fabulous machine my eyes had ever seen. Jaw dropping! As he drove by he stopped and rolled down the window, looked at me with a big grin and said, “My wife is going to kill me when she sees this, but I couldn’t help it, I am a sick man”! Leo lived, and Mrs. Bartolucci, being a sweetheart, was happy for him.

One day while Leo was in his garage giving his “Jewel” a beauty treatment I told him how much I would love to photograph his treasure. He looked up and said, “Anytime, just come over and pick up the keys, take her for a spin”.

Oh boy, this was going to happen! Thank you, Leo!

I had picked up Her Majesty the night before. Now 5:30 a.m., Susan had my thermos ready and filled with coffee, gave me a kiss goodbye, sent me out the door, and into the cool morning I roared off in Leo’s masterpiece. This work of art had big horsepower under its long nose with a gleaming chrome grille bumper leading the way and in the rear those sleek aerodynamic fins following. The vision of my sketch was in my mind but now panic set in about where is the spot?

I headed in the direction of desolate Placitas, wound down graveled roads that just took off into the wide-open landscape. Sandia, a mountain with many moods stood in the distance. This was an angle I had never viewed Sandia from before. Suddenly, the road came to an abrupt end. I stepped out and walked around the Fleetwood, which had begun to look more like a space ship in the desert than an alluring auto from Detroit. Better give it a try. If I fail at least I tried. Setting up and looking into the viewfinder all was ready, and then feathery clouds came floating into the scene. They had not been in my sketch. As years went by it became a constant that in the moment something always greater than my original idea would present itself in the making of an image. Fleetwood, New Mexico was the first of many of these kinds of experiences to come in to my life as a photographer.

At home I cleaned and polished Leo’s lavender gem before returning it back into his care. Now, 42 years later, this recollection is a beautiful memory for which I am deeply grateful. The tribute and celebration of this moment came when The Center for Creative Photography took “Fleetwood, New Mexico” 1976 into their permanent collection. The Center, located in Tucson, Arizona is where Ansel Adams entrusted the life long treasury of his works.